Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman were facing some extremely high expectations and unanticipated buzz surrounding their debut LP, Razzmatazz. Under the band moniker, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (which originates from a Back to the Future quote) the two musicians found some unexpected success early on in their career. Weekes, who once was a touring and contributing member to Panic! At the Disco, found himself at a crossroads of sorts since he had written tons of solo material and needed an outlet to release it under. The band’s first single, “Choke,” from the 1981 Extended Play record skyrocketed the band to the tip of everyone’s tongue and made naysayers take notice of what some were calling “Panic-lite.” The EP debuted at the top of the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and the single peaked at #7 on the iTunes Top 100 Alternative music charts. With the spotlight firmly on the band, Weekes and Seaman crafted a unique set of tracks that would become their debut full-length record. The material is similar to the introductory tracks found on the EP, but the band begins to realize their vision for their sound on Razzmatazz.
”Leave Me Alone” gets things started on the right foot with some synth-laden power-pop ready for the dance floor. Weekes does a nice job of telling a story in between the beat on the bridge’s lyrics of, “Four in the morning but we’re having such a lovely time / Mad as a Hatter with a dagger and a dollar sign / Aristocrat, tip your hats and break your mother’s heart / And when the sun comes up, you’ll find a brand new God.” The track remains an early standout in the set and serves its purpose of keeping interest high as the rest of the record unfolds.
The subsequent song, “Mad IQs” is a step down from the quality of the opening single but has its catchy moments to keep it interesting. Weekes begins to paint more of the picture on the second verse when he croons, “The apocalypse is coming / Don’t you lose all your control / ‘Cause you can’t get into Heaven / If you haven’t got a soul / You can never ever stop me / If you are sick or you’re obscene / You can bend or you can break / But they’ll replace you with machines.” Most of the song follows a pretty simple formula and doesn’t reach the heights of the material that was found on their introductory EP.
”Nobody Likes the Opening Band” features some tongue-in-cheek lyrics regarding the social commentary surrounding getting to a show early to politely watch the first act. Weekes sings over a piano about the pitfalls of sitting through the first few artists at a concert but leaves the door open for promise as he mentions that “if you lend an ear and give them just one little chance, you may just like the opening band.” The track does a good job of breaking up the heavy synths found on most of the other songs and makes it unique enough to be memorable in the sequencing. “From the Gallows” follows a similar style to this track, with some jazzy piano, and is eerily reminiscent of the 1975’s song “Mine” from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The main differences between the similar tracks are the crescendo parts in Weekes’ vocal delivery and some electronic elements such as a computerized voice that makes an appearance at the midway point of the song. The track is very much in the wheelhouse of Panic! At the Disco with some Arctic Monkeys and The 1975 thrown into the fold.
”Clusterhug” gets things back on track with a big chorus of “Only if you’d like me to / I could fall in love with you / Only if you’d like me to / Fall in love” that is similar to the material of the Panic-spin off band The Young Veins (led by Ryan Ross). The song also features some fuzzy guitars, great piano playing, and well-crafted hooks. If not for the stellar opening track, it would have been my favorite song in the set.
Other songs like “Sugar Pills” and “Lights Go Down” are pretty standard fodder from the band, but they keep the momentum going on the record. “Kiss Goodnight” is sandwiched between these two songs and sounds like something The Cure would have written during their peak in the ’80s. Weekes vocal delivery is also similar to Robert Smith here, and he channels his inner goth king as he sings passionately over the programmed beat.
”Need You Here” and “Door” are the only two songs I couldn’t really get into, and it’s the only material that could be accused of being unnecessary filler on the album. These tracks both build-up to the big title track that leaves the listener with a satisfying taste in their mouth and the desire to press “repeat” on the album. Weekes sings matter of factly on the chorus, “Let’s go paint the town / On our way home / The blinking lights / Are breaking bones / Cast all your spells / And then you have, that good old fashion razzmatazz.”
The material found on Razzmatazz is frenetic, energetic, catchy, and quirky all simultaneously. While the tempo changes as quickly as the hooks appear on this debut LP, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me seem to be getting closer to creating their landmark album that makes a bold statement in the synth-rock scene. While I didn’t find this album to be as immediately gratifying as their raucous debut EP, there is still plenty to enjoy and find memorable on this record.