Fundamentalism Is The Only Way is a very much a trip, music of multiple genres that demands your attention and a dizzying array of lyrics, loaded with wordplay and significance. Kanis designed the album like a record used to be, with seven tracks a side. Even more so, some vintage synthesizers—and equally vintage-sounding airchecks featuring D.C.-area DJ Cerphe Colwell—plunk the listener back amidst a bygone era. That’s not to suggest the music itself is throwback; for example, “I Love You More Than Words Could Ever Say” may have shades of classic power pop, and the T.Rex stomp of “Empire” is infectious, but the sound is all now.
A pair of instrumentals bookends the set, each starting similarly but both going to lovely places on their own. We particularly like the electric violin that pops up on occasion. Three songs previewed on All-American Mongrel Boy appear here, and fit well into the context of the album’s worldview. Lest you think he thinks too much, “Devil In My Head” is one tight mini-opera at 2:48, and a particular effective setup for the lovely “Make A Wish”.
We mentioned that Fundamentalism Is The Only Way demands the listener’s attention, and that probably is the best way to experience it, liner notes in hand to keep up with the words as fast as he can deliver him, and to marvel at the number of instruments listed for each track, along with details about when each song was written, right down to the minute of conception. Others call it minutiae; we see it as proof that there’s a kindred spirit only a few time zones away.
Jon Kanis Fundamentalism Is The Only Way (2016)—3½