My compilation purchases have always compensated for johnny-come-lately tendencies. It’s a problem I’ve tackled to an extent — I haven’t cracked open Best of Bowie since buying Low and Aladdin Sane — but about one month into writing for Prefix, three of the four albums I’ve written about have been some sort of compilation.
So upon reaching for my fourth compilation review, Enon’s Lost Marbles and Exploded Evidence, I felt the need to slap myself stupid. The only thing that stopped me from bludgeoning my face with a bag of frozen broccoli (florets only) was my unfamiliarity with Enon.
In theory, this record should be a terrible introduction to John Schmersal and company’s quirk-tastic pop. It’s a rarities collection, and that means it’s a fans-only endeavor, as in “show us your Enon-tattooed ass and sing Hocus Pocus in its entirety before you jump aboard.” But Lost Marbles proved me wrong. The album, which is accompanied by a DVD containing tour footage, live performances and videos, doesn’t play like a rarities collection, especially to strangers of Enon’s catalogue. Instead, it’s a random endeavor through what could be the poor man’s Odelay. It jumps from light pop to disco funk to noise samples without ever sacrificing melody for the sake of overindulgence.
The barriers to my enjoyment: Lost Marbles collects limited-edition singles, Web-exclusives and other odd ducks from a band whose odd ducks I have no reason to be interested in. It spans six years and four different lineups, including an early solo song from Schmersal, the group’s only steady member and onetime member of Brainiac and John Stuart Mill. It should be the type of collection that makes superfans squeal and leaves others scratching their heads.
What’s helping me across these barriers: “The Nightmare of Atomic Men” is one of the greatest dance jams never to be included on a DFA compilation. Did he really begin the song by saying, “Yow?” Its raw breakdown is filled with what can only be described as bass belches. You figure it out. “Adalania (Not So Fair)” is a twisted lounge act with percussion faintly smelling of Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away,” and “Tilt You Up!” is a bass assault complemented with noise as Schmersal and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Toko Yasuda sweetly trade chorus lines.
If I had indeed needed a fans-only ticket to board this Enon train, I would have been left whimpering at the station, begging transients for bus fare home. But give me a month; I’m getting Toko’s face filled in when the swelling dies down.