The first five seconds of Dead Ensign’s Q: What Else Is There To Do? give me a powerful sense of foreboding I haven’t felt from a piece of music since Thom Yorke’s Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film).
“Can you feel it?” the vocalist asks. “Running down your spine?”
The album as a whole is not Suspiria-like, however. It’s more like a synth-pop incarnation of Evil Dead II. Por ejemplo, “Kill Your Grandma” contains some lyrics that, facetious or not, are both horrifying and hilarious. I can’t tell if it’s “I hope you fuckin’ kill your grandma” or “I hope you fuck and kill your grandma.” Either way, yuk yuk yuck.
Moody, minimalist and well-crafted beats keep such lyrics from drifting into the realm of the absurd — or, worse, parody. Instead, any comedic elements retain the hallmark of a satirist. Mid-century French anarchists would be huge fans. If they’d had TikTok, their anthem would be “Jerk on the Company’s Dime.” They would play it over rush hour flash mobs to freak out the squares.
Dead Ensign’s technique, background and artistic goals are mostly a mystery. I wish I could expand, but this dude is possibly the cagiest motherfucker I have ever interviewed. I’m not actually sure if Dead Ensign is a single person. Is it a group? Or an art project?
Answer: “We are many, no further information is required.”
This reminds me of language used by Anonymous — as in the quasi-political loose collective birthed on 4chan’s /b/ board — so let’s assume for now that Ensign is a solo male under the age of 40 and use he/him pronouns. Most of the album’s subject matter supports this theory.
“We got the kids a PS4 (I love Minecraft)” may be my favorite track. It makes the best use of the midi-style bit-punk elements present throughout the album along with the most appreciable lyrics. “Homiesexual (Gotta Love Your Homies)” may be more meaningful, but no sentiment is as universal as “I just want to play my video game.”
Most of the album is personally relevant. The subject matter is familiar. The vocalist almost sounds bored, even through surprise tonal gut punches like “Weekend At My Mom’s House,” when you can’t decide if it’s sweet or sad before you realize it’s both.
Bookended by Benadryl (“…a great sleeping aid,” Dead Ensign says, “sometimes you need to create a break for yourself, but be careful.”) and nightmares, *Q: What Else Is There To Do?* is available on Bandcamp as of at your own price. In other words, it is possible to download it for free, but don’t be a dick. Support independent Midwestern artists, especially those experimental creators who ask only that you engage.
Follow Dead Ensign on Bandcamp and keep an eye out for a follow-up project.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 301