Milwaukee band IfIHadAHiFi combines dissonant post-punk with smart-assed, catchy songwriting. Info
Wisconsin and the Midwest have a history of birthing post-punk and noise-rock bands that give the music a menacingly playful twist, from Madison's Killdozer and Appliances-SFB to Dayton, Ohio's Brainiac. To follow that legacy into the present, it's probably a good idea to start with Milwaukee band IfIHadAHiFi, which formed in 2000 and combines its love of hyper-vivid melody with spirals of dissonance. You'll be able see this four-piece's banners of nerdiness and smart-assery a-flutter before the van hits Johnson Creek, what with song titles like "Doubting Thomas Telescope," "Paradise By The Paulding Light," and "My Very Eager Memory Just Seems Useless Now," and the fact that all the band members have palindrome stage names (YaleDelay on guitar and vocals, RevEver on guitar and synth, DrAwkward on drums and vocals, and MrAlarm on bass, synth, and vocals). But along with that comes a compelling ability to warp the dynamics of rock music and chop up its rhythmic conventions into giddily suspenseful structures.
This year's We're Never Going Home, HiFi's first full-length in seven years, finds the band stirring up just as much chaos as ever, but expanding on its perverse catchiness. It also finds the times coming into unfortunate/opportune sync with the band’s approach to lyrics. "Space Is Fake" finds IfIHadAHiFi tapping the vein of gruesome unreality that runs through the American psyche, not just riffing on the rise of conspiracy theorists but inhabiting their worldview with the abandon of the best satire: “Equal time for the Young Earth point of view / You know it's true! You know it's true!” The fuzzy whir of a synth and the straightforward drive of the drums combine to evoke a mental state of both madness and resolute determination. Elsewhere, "My Very Eager Memory Just Seems Useless Now" plays the brightness of its verses (they're almost like something Bob Mould would write—actually they're very much like something Bob Mould would write and that's always fine with me) off the hoarse shouting of its chorus. "The Wrist" leads off with a guitar figure that shows off YaleDelay's ability to wring an engaging tension from what on the surface might seem like just a few notes plucked in a choppy pattern. Like all the other misshapen components that make up any IfIHadAHiFi song, it clicks right into a formation, finding its place in a collective mutant momentum. That's why this band holds up: Everything is jaggedy and messed-up, and everything is wonderfully in sync.
Telechrome is the recently formed duo of Madison-based musicians Terrance Barrett and Tarek Sabbar. The two share a fascination with both guitars and electronics. Barrett's solo project Terran combines psych-rock shredding with layered synth arpeggios and song structures that feel at once carefully programmed and completely volatile. Sabbar's own solo efforts have focused recently on atmospheric modular synths, with the occasional dash of harsh techno. The two previously collaborated in the bleak Milwaukee post-punk band Heat Death before finding their respective ways to Madison. The other local support band here, Momotaros, is one of several projects from Madison musician Chris Joutras, who is also heading up the newly revived booking efforts at the Tip Top. —Scott Gordon