By: Madeleine Chan, Opinions Editor
Concept albums are one of my favourite things in the world. I think artists that put in the effort to create a cohesive story throughout an album should be praised more for their ingenuity. So imagine my delight when I discovered a whole ass concept band.
I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (sometimes styled as iDKHOW) is a band composed of two former members of bands Panic! At the Disco and Falling in Reverse. As the narrative goes, iDKHOW is a band from “30 plus years ago that never got their big break” whose tapes were discovered in 2017 by someone with the screen name “_SRCHPRTY_”, who then began posting them online. The complete story is purposely unclear which has led to in-story conspiracies along with a heavy dose of speculation by fans.
Razzmatazz expands on the narrative by adding elements of potential time travel and mind control, broadening the world even further. The fictional governmental corporation Tellexx that surrounds the band’s mythology also plays a bigger role as the company that seemingly controls the band through these methods. Given that the band members arguably come from two big players in the music machine, the message is a clear outcome of their past experiences and serves as a metaphor for the bureaucracy and toxicity of the entertainment industry. Lead singer Dallon Weekes doesn’t deny his critique of entertainment culture and has even made it the topic of multiple songs.
Many of the songs in Razzmatazz contain thinly veiled criticisms of the music industry. Lead single “Leave Me Alone” does this most plainly in its chorus telling entertainment “big shots” to essentially fuck off through seething vocals. In one of my favourites, “Mad IQs,” the band sings sarcastically of controlling entities and willful ignorance through lyrics like “Watch your colonial tongue / I’ll watch you tighten the noose.” These are set against funky rhythms and melodies to create an infectious tune. “Lights Go Down” features a repetitive chorus that talks of endless dancing (like most party songs), but in the verses subtly pokes at celebrity culture and breaks from the on-beat choral pattern. Title track “Razzmatazz” finishes the album talking about the facetious “magic” of Hollywood with an equally magical saxophone solo to send us off.
The songs in the album aren’t all connected, but it doesn’t matter when sonically they match and flow together. The overall sound is the epitome of the alternative style, drawing from a myriad of eras of rock, pop, and jazz, yet still sounding new and modern. The choice of including synthesizers along with standard acoustic instruments also pulls from both the future and past simultaneously. In addition, the futuristic aesthetic found in their music videos and songs contrast so interestingly with the painful realities of the present day music industry.
What makes the world-building even better is that only the physical copy of the album has two bonus spoken-word interludes and extended cuts of the songs. This not only is reminiscent of times when you couldn’t just get everything online and had to seek out new music and bands in-person, but contributes to the narrative of discovering iDKHOW’s physical recordings. The interludes feature robotic Tellexx voices reminiscent of corporate PSA’s and in-flight greetings, with one at the beginning and end to perfectly immerse you into the story.
This type of care in crafting a multimedia narrative that is both engaging for listeners and defies expectation is so unique. While iDKHOW still operates within the music industry, they also cleverly critique it. Razzmatazz combines good music, an overarching narrative, sci-fi, and criticism of powers structures, all some of my favourite things, into one amazing piece of art. I don’t know how, but I may listen to them 24/7.