Diaries of the Intelligentsia
After hanging up with somewhat-recent California transplant Jerry Chen (and allowing him to return to messing with neurons and researching brain plasticity), I realized that in our chat about his amorphous trio, The Televangelist and the Architect, I had totally spaced on asking what the deal was with that weird band name. Yes, I know how much that question sucks, but then I went and asked it anyway. Here's what he said: 'I've tried to explain the band name a few times, and each time, it just kind of comes out wrong, so I've just decided to answer it with one of those strange, cryptic riddles: We are the church that the architect built where now the televangelist preaches. Sorry to be that guy. =)' He's not 'that guy.' If anything, his explanation is an uncharacteristic bit of abstraction for a lyricist who—at least on his newest release, The Diaries of the Intelligentsia - is the very vision of directness. Each track packs a neatly portioned dose of highly concentrated austerity: In 'Nationalism' he flatly asks: 'This anthem that plays / Does it fill you with pride? / Or make you foreign inside?' In 'The Young Professional,' a yuppie is goaded for his 'master plan.' And the whole of 'Self-Propagating Mechanisms of Religion' dutifully picks away at an 'intent that's meant to quell.' You'd think it was hardcore. But while Chen's lyrics skirt abstraction altogether, his music delights in it. The first discordant strums on Intelligentsia, along with Chen's nervy narration, conjure up old skeletal Gastr del Sol ditties - of course, that's only one of the song's five (or so) movements, none of which resemble their neighbors. The arrangements can go from grand and sweeping to coy and creeping. Meanwhile, Chen's voice can move from stifled formality to distressed hollers to tuneful croons all within the course of a verse; he keeps his words blunt and let's the music elaborate. 'Maybe some of my lyrics are sort of...observational' Chen says when asked if being a scientist makes it any simpler for him to write about people. 'But I'm not sure it has anything to do with me being surrounded by science though I do sometimes feel like I'm writing little theses.' -Michael Brodeur The Weekly Dig.