Imagine that aliens have invaded; they’re taking control, except instead of ruling the planet, what they really want is to jam in your garage. What you’ve got then is The Intelligence, an LA-based post-punk band that grows more and more with each new album (and they’ve had eight great ones, it’s hard to keep up). Just a week or so after the release of their latest LP Vintage Future, I got to speak with founding member, lead singer, and resident genius Lars Finberg via e-mail.
“I think maybe we have tried to have a foot in the future and one in the past?” says Finberg, in terms of where exactly this extraterrestrial sound comes from. “I am a fan of antiquated rickety presentations of the future like Buck Rogers or Joe Meek.”
The influence is clear – it’s like Meek’s I Hear a New World got a bit of a modern upgrade on Vintage Future. The album’s title track especially emphasizes this imagery, starting with an other-worldly ringing and ending with a robotic voice whining, “But I was just learning how to love.” A tragedy indeed.
The fantastic production value of this record makes for a clear vision of what exactly a vintage future might be. Says Finberg, “I think our engineer/producer/recordist Chris Woodhouse improves from greatness with each record he makes.”
A clean and cohesive lo-fi sound coupled with simple, catchy lyrics capitalize the band’s thematic lyrical poignancy, as well as their ability to be unforgivingly and cohesively strange. These lyrics and themes have a way of creeping into your brain, and it’s brilliant to see Finberg keep coming up with more and more, seemingly never running out of new ideas.
“I X-ray what’s inside me and try to read the blueprints as clearly as I can,” he says. “If it sounds like someone else’s X-ray I’m not afraid to use white out or tape or glue to make it newer to me.”
A standout for me is “Dieu Merci Pour La Fixation De La Machine a Coudre,” which is a near-translation of a track on 2009’s Fake Surfers record, “Thank You God For Fixing The Tape Machine.”
While the original track fits right in with their garage rock sound, the latter is a slower serenade. Lyrics like “In the moonlight/Out of the cruel light/I’ve been mesmerized/I think I almost feel right” backed by a swoon-worthy guitar make you want to go for a tango in Paris. Though the songs sound worlds apart, Finberg calls the connection between the two “a secret puzzle.”
“Cool you noticed that,” he says. “The Fake Surfers song was related to a tape machine and love. The Vintage Future update was inspired in France at a club called ‘Machine a Coudre’ or sewing machine, and love. Or some kind of version of it in either case.”
And it all seems strange to us from the outside, but that’s part of the magic in listening to The Intelligence – wanting to understand just what’s going on in Finberg’s brain. “To quote Mitch Hedberg,” he says, “‘Come inside my head and tell me that doesn’t make sense.'”
Catch The Intelligence supporting Franz Ferdinand + Sparks at Terminal 5 on October 6.
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