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Most music fans are familiar with the genesis of New Order and how the band that was Joy Division dealt with the death of their lead singer by soldiering on under a new name, adopting a different musical approach, and eventually creating the template for an entire synthesizer-driven genre. Somewhere in a parallel universe beyond our grasp, it was not Ian Curtis whose life was cut short but rather Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy, and the band that rose out of the ashes sounded a lot like The Chain Gang of 1974.*
Of course, TCGo74′s sound has a decidedly contemporary edge–think shades of LCD Soundsystem and The Presets–but at its nucleus is the brooding, post-punk energy that Bauhaus songs articulated so well. After hearing “Undercover,” the lead single from Wayward Fire (to be released next Tuesday by Modern Art Records), new listeners may be surprised to discover that the band is the work of just one person, Denver resident Kamtin Mohager. They could be forgiven for thinking that Mohager has a full band at the ready, though, given how the instrumentation on “Undercover” leaps out of the speakers like so many bursts of light dancing their way off a sparkler.
Synthesizers do most of the heavy lifting on “Undercover,” from the octave-riding bass line to the layers of subtle background melodies. There is a lot going on–the tracks are densely packed–but Mohager always has things under control. Every now and then, a new musical idea is pulled to the forefront to keep things fresh (like the piercing guitars of the song’s final section). All of the instrumentation is in the service of Mohager’s vocals, which are delivered in a signature hollow baritone. Indeed, his vocals have never sounded better; something in the production of “Undercover” suggests that Mohager has finally found the sweet spot where his singing style is concerned.
“Undercover” sets its energy level high and never relents; you’ll be glad it’s coming soon to a set of speakers near you.
*(And sure, I know that technically that band would probably sound more like Tones on Tail, but indulge me on this one, okay?)