There's an epic simplicity to the way Chris Corner constructs his anthems and yet the deeper you delve into each of his songs the more complex they become. Easily enjoyed on a variety of levels the music of IAMX is subversive cabaret encompassing numerous styles all projected through an unassuming "Pop" facade. It's extraordinarily deep music dressed up as rich and confrontational commentary on modern life and social mores. Corner's approach can come across as innocently unassuming yet powerfully simplistic while his voice and lyrics range from fragile and vulnerable to wise and brash all within the course of a few clever stanzas.
Thumping beats punctuate invigorating electronics while the vocals rise from an ambivalent complacency to an ultra-emotive falsetto which ultimately climbs to a stirring wail. Corner's exemplary range makes for an astonishing listen. The title track of his latest effort, Kingdom Of Welcome Addiction, begins with a plaintive piano intro that leads into an anthemic synth passage. Expertly building things up and bringing them down to a hush before exploding forward it becomes impossible not to buy into what IAMX is selling. There's a classic Eighties Synth Pop feel to the music with a contemporary sensibility and unmistakable edge transcribed through well-thought out lyrical prowess. And with this set everything actually sounds less synthetic and considerably more organic, increasing the raw power of the subject matter and elevating the music to iconic standards.
Corner isn't a man out of time so much as a person symbiotically encompassing a variety of time periods under the guise of simply accessible songwriting for the common, contemporary audiophile. When he teams with a vocalist like Imogen Heap, for the stunning "My Secret Friend," neither seems outmatched and both sound timeless. The synergy between singers is astonishing and at times it becomes difficult to ascertain when one drops out and the other takes charge. Corner embraces the theatrical without including a great deal of syrupy melodrama, choosing to keep things simple and cutting. The best theater accentuates language and mood over spectacle, impressing not with bombast and image overkill but with a thematic cavalcade of grand ideas framed within something acutely palatable. The music of IAMX seems to grasp that by having a voice - actually having something to say. Art flows freely and wondrously with a gravitas that endears this work to the curious and inquisitively receptive.
The most surprising track is "An I For An I" in which Corner comes across like Reznor on a bender with a 6/8 time signature and some slicing, feedback drenched guitar. But it's the exception to the rule as more thoughtful songs like "Tear Garden" and the wistful "I Am Terrified" clutch at the strings of the heart as a masterful puppeteer might, providing the direction you will be helpless to blindly accept. Even when he edges toward being preachy during "Think Of England" and "The Stupid, The Proud," he remains oblique enough to keep the music from becoming to heavy-handed.
The only moment that doesn't seem to work is the bland closer, "Running," which doesn't serve as the proper punctuation to an otherwise fascinating conversation. And Kingdom Of Welcome Addiction does seem like a fair exchange between the artist and the listener who unwittingly plays a role ahead of an ephemeral "fourth wall." That's what makes for such great theater. And that's why you'll be able to enjoy this show so thoroughly. Don't miss it for anything.
See also: Review: Kiss + Swallow
See also: Review: The Alternative