New York City’s post-punk, art-rock ensemble Imaginary People return with an irreverent, amphetamine-fuelled new track ‘Renegade’, lifted from the band’s forthcoming album ‘Alibi’ due later this year.
After beginning the campaign for their third full-length album back February 2020, Imaginary People had to hit the pause button due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The official video for Renegade’, which was directed by Imaginary People’s Dylan Von Wagner, is out today. On the video Dylan Von Wagner says, “After spending two nights in jail for trespassing in an empty warehouse we found the “right” one and performed an exorcism! Thank you and please just listen.”
‘Renegade’ is now on all streaming platforms. The release follows up the album’s two pre-release singles, ‘Hometown’ and ‘Crazy Eight’. ‘Hometown’ was described by PopMatters as “landing somewhere between ’80s stadium rock (The Alarm, War-era U2) and latter day saints such as the War on Drugs.” Both songs are available now to stream and share on streaming services.
Any music worth its salt will reflect the times it’s made in. It’ll absorb the atmosphere of everything around it, hold up a mirror to what’s happening in the lives of the people who made it and also the wider world outside. That’s exactly what Alibi, the band’s third full-length does. It is, as frontman Dylan Von Wagner, explains, a response to the cultural civil war that he sees unfolding all across the USA.
That cultural dystopia bristles through Alibi’s 11 songs. Recorded by Phil Weinrobe (Nick Murphy, Pussy Riot, Stolen Jars) at Rivington 66 in the band’s home of New York City, as well as upstate with Eli Crews at Spillway Sound in the Catskills, and mixed by Eli Crews (Tuneyards, Deerhoof, Xylouris White at Figure 8 in Brooklyn. This is an album that shimmers with a twisted beauty, which feeds off all of that disturbing substance and turns it into something both harrowing and beautiful.
As such, the band – completed by Mark Roth (guitar), Justin Repasky (keys/synth), Kolby Wade (drums), Bryan Percivall (bass/synth), and with additional synth work by Grant Zubritsky – have not just perfectly captured the times in which this record was written, but have managed to turn the nightmare of the modern world into something truly exquisite, pitting emotional vulnerability against an almost resigned stoicism. Just listen to the way that Von Wagner’s voice trembles on opener “It’s Simple” – the tenderly mournful opener written minutes after the singer watched the gun massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School unfold on live television – or the tentative fragility and dark romanticism of “Bronx Girl”, which manages to still be hopeful in a world without hope. Elsewhere, the jittery “Neon Age” rails against a world in which people present a different version of their lives to society in order to impress them.
“It’s a giant sh*t on Instagram,” Von Wagner says matter-of-factly. “I have no problem with people using it, but everybody’s just making up their life to be their own little movie, and I think it’s making a lot of people mentally ill.”
“It’s about what happens when your town is replaced with something that seems to sway on the benign and it kind of leaves you with this dread,” explains Von Wagner. “It’s all spread out in this cookie cutter mold, and the town doesn’t have its own personality – just another brush stroke on the bland canvas of suburbia.”
While there are glimpses of light throughout the darkness that permeates every aspect of Alibi – one that captures the nature of what humanity has become – and while its songs do reflect the harsh, bleak reality of being alive – and of the coldness and meanness of the big city, especially when the world feels like it’s collapsing – it also manages to exist on its own, and on its own terms.
“Imaginary People are just in our own little world,” says Von Wagner. “I don’t think we really participate, we live in New York and it was made here, but we just keep to ourselves. I don’t know where this stuff comes from or why I feel this way and write this shit. I feel like it’s a weird addiction that I can’t shake, and I don’t think any psychoanalysis is going to shed light on it.”