His Name Is Alive

Warren Defever, the restless creative mind behind His Name Is Alive, continues to defy coherent description with his group’s new album, Ft. Lake (4AD). In some ways it’s HNIA’s most conventional effort–although keyboards and snatches of electronics pepper a few tunes, the bulk of the album is built around guitar, bass, and drums. But since Defever’s toyed with everything from goth to experimentalism to chopped-up Beach Boys tributes on his way here, sounding conventional is as strange as anything he’s done. Regular vocalist Karin Oliver handles most of the singing; her contributions have always been a bit saccharine and arch, but on the new album I keep picturing her as a precocious seventh-grader singing numbers from Annie at a middle school talent show. New recruit Lovetta Pippen fares better on her vocal turns; her gospel-choir power is doubtless what inspired Defever to dabble in R & B on tunes like “Wish I Had a Wishing Ring,” a glob of Detroit hard-rock funk topped with diva cliches. But as admirable as it is to sound different on every album, eclecticism usually works better as a means, not as an end in itself. I found Ft. Lake pleasant enough, but if it hadn’t kept me so busy guessing what would come next I’m not sure I would’ve cared. For better or for worse, the band’s even more unpredictable live. HNIA shares the bill with Sweden’s Komeda and Chicago’s Butterfly Child (see J.R. Jones’s Critic’s Choice). Tuesday, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by HINA.