Jean Smith and David Lester are two "people that just [don't] stop." Three decades have elapsed since Mecca Normal first tore through the political and aesthetic traditions of independently minded guitar-pop at the band's inception in 1984. On Empathy for the Evil [M'lady's], their first LP since 2006, the band works with the same minimalist indie-pop toolbox as ever, but the duo's embraced a new-found sense of melodicism, too, which makes Smith's politicized lyrics easier to swallow.
The tough gnarls of Lester's distorted guitar pricks and Smith's hyperactive vocal workouts are tamed and the lyrics pop to the foreground of the record, laying bare its heavy thematic concerns. Production help from Kramer (known for his work with Galaxie 500, Half Japanese, and Low) cleans up the requisite fuzz from the band's K days, presenting these songs as unvarnished and uncomplicated.
On this release, Mecca Normal pushes their fractured and fractious sound into a production aesthetic more akin to the MOR guitar machine that their initial records raged against. They're still saying all the same things—but on Empathy for the Evil, they've just decided that they want to say them a little more clearly.