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September 22, 2002

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As much as the neu wave would like to think it’s a artistic movement that’s learned the lessons that brought new wave down, it isn’t. For the most part, the second wave is cluttered with bands trading the novelty of analog synthesizers for musical depth and shallow pop and comedic themes. It’s like the early ’80s all over again – but this time we really, really ought to know better.

Of course, there’s some bands who do. Milemarker continues to prove it’s an act that, no matter how bogged down in vintage synth sounds it gets, has a lot more artistic vision than a good 95 percent of its neu-wave compatriots on Satanic Versus. Grim and as forceful as its title implies – although without any hokey ties to the black arts – Satanic Versus keeps the uncomfortable punk aesthetic in all the layers of hopped-up analogs and swirling gizmo-driven melodies. There’s no fun-fun-fun ’till Daddy takes the Roland away; it’s a dark, heavy mix of flesh and circuitry on Milemarker’s latest. Think Darth Vader instead of Inspector Gadget. Think WTO riots instead of tear-down-the-goalposts college-football revelry. Put Darth and Seattle together, and you’re just about at the spot from which Milemarker comes.

Milemarker’s twist on neu wave may not be the most comfortable one (if you’re looking for easygoing camp, stick to The Aeffect or The Epoxies), but it’s got all the guts that its molded-plastic compatriots ignore. From walls of analog beeps, tricked out guitars, a grimy bass and God knows what else that that calls forth the power of baroque composers ("New Lexicon") to an artistic revolutionary’s call-to-arms set to the bleep-sqawk of moody, and nasty synthesizers ("Join Our Party"), Milemarker’s one of the few acts which knows how to get a sound out of its vintage equipment that’s dark and powerful rather than wimpy and translucent. Even the least Milemarker-sounding track on the EP, "Lost the Thoughts But Kept the Skin," a creepy piano-based number, keeps the act’s disaffected and grim aesthetic close to its surface.

Don’t let the floods of campy synth-pop bands destroy you palette. You can still keep a taste for the analog noise with Satanic Versus, a much-needed bit of sour synth in the sugary neu-wave world.