Let Yourself Be Seen balances the hope and horror of the modern age with fantastic, relatable detail, planting it firmly in the present.
I can’t talk about DOOMSQUAD’s third LP Let Yourself Be Seen without talking about Talking Heads. I also can’t simply say DOOMSQUAD sound like Talking Heads, even though they sort of do sometimes. It’s a cheap comparison until you let yourself sink deep into the world of DOOMSQUAD and realize it’s the perfect comparison. This band evokes Talking Heads, particularly during their critical and commercial peak, in ways that go far deeper than surface level similarity, but to talk about that we need to explore all the ways DOOMSQUAD are not like Talking Heads.
First of all, DOOMSQUAD are for the kids. Loudly and proudly. They sing in and about the present with the same disdain that all the most notorious punks had for the generation that preceded them. The weird future David Byrne and company envisioned has come to pass and DOOMSQUAD write vividly and relatedly about the anxiety, disappointment, and contradictions that come with being a young person today. One such contradiction is that we revere the art of the past, but we can’t escape it or surpass its influence or promise. Like so many other institutions we have inherited, we are paralyzed by their profits and prominence, but DOOMSQUAD give off the feeling that those proverbial chains are beginning to be shaken loose. “You think I’m aimless? My aim is on you,” they cry on “Aimless”, a direct response to the typical attitude older generations have towards their inheritors. So much of today’s music is steeped in nostalgia, either sonically or aesthetically but DOOMSQUAD are not conservative and their music, much like their politics, is pointed towards the future.
DOOMSQUAD are a 21st century electronic band, who’s foremost concern is making you dance. Talking Heads became concerned with rhythm. They were a rock band who allowed groove to become the most important part of their sound. DOOMSQUAD build beats and textures and shape them into infectious techno-pop songs, because if they can’t dance to it, it’s not their revolution. Guitar parts serve the band’s sound the way a trumpet would in a soul band: rhythmic flourishes that have the power to lift a song to a higher place. Trevor Blumas handles most of the guitar on the record, and takes the chorus of “Dorian’s Closet” and the end of “Aimless” to the stratosphere. On “Let It Go”, the band is joined by Ejji Smith on guitar who closes the song with a climactic solo that could knock you over if you aren’t prepared for it. Flutes serve as an important reminder that, yes this music is made by humans and is the only instrument that isn’t too tied to rhythmic enhancement. It’s the voices and melodies, performed by all three members of the band, that will stick in your head and keep you coming back to dig deeper and deeper into the world of Let Yourself Be Seen.
That’s the final thing that sets DOOMSQUAD apart from Talking Heads — this band has no leader. DOOMSQUAD share the musical and vocal load like three well-trained, good-mannered siblings, which is exactly what they are. The Blumas (Jaclyn, Allie, and Trevor) maybe three distinct people with three distinct voices and skill sets, but as a unit they are an incredibly effective machine. The collectivism in their approach syncs perfectly with their anti-capitalist outlook. From the stirring, dubby, Emma Goldman tribute “Emma” lead by Jaclyn’s deep Björkian croon, to the yelping anxiety and insight of the Trevor-lead “General Hum” and the pitchy on purpose defiance of Ally’s “Let It Go”, the spread helps move the pulsating grooves from repetitive to revelatory.
DOOMSQUAD make outsider art, designed for dancing toward revolution. They richly blend sounds and styles like techno, rock, and world rhythms in a nearly peerless way. Let Yourself Be Seen is a perfectly paced record that balances the hope and horror of the modern age with fantastic, relatable detail, planting it firmly in the present. It’s a record that plays like a worthy successor to Remain in Light, known for its upbeat anthems, remembered for its depth and darkness and forward-thinking fusion. Like Talking Heads, DOOMSQUAD want to be seen for what they are, as the album’s title encourages. They are musicians writing material that is deeply weird but also very accessible, that can be enjoyed and feared simultaneously. They don’t need to imagine the future because they already exist there, we just have to catch up. Forty years from now we will be able to listen back to Let Yourself Be Seen and hear a record and a band ahead of its time, much like what listening to Talking Heads’ masterpiece feels like now. Only then, we won’t have to wonder to ourselves “how did we get here?”