Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Control: Fairfield’s Black Sheep

Let’s talk a little bit about Fairfield, Iowa. I think most people from Iowa have at least a slight preconceived notion about the little burgh southeast of Des Moines. Most equate it with the Maharishi Institute and probably think it is a bit of an unknown oasis in the middle of the corn. To a lot of us, though, we equate it with being a hotbed of synth and electronic music. That has a lot to do with two brothers, Philip and Dom Rabalais, and a whole host of talented musicians who have collaborated together to create some of the most interesting and unique music in the state.

I have spoken of Dom and Phil in this space before; together they are the synth-pop juggernaut Utopia Park. Separately, Phil is one half of Trouble Lights and one half of Animal (my album of the year last year).  Dom is better known by his alter-ego Little Ruckus, but he is also part of the Goth-synth trio Control.

ControlNow if all of these bands are brother/sister bands, they each seem to have their own, almost sitcom family traits. Sure they have ties that bind (and not just a Rabalais): each band has a lot of synth and each band is seemingly way smarter than I. But they all have their own personalities. Utopia Park is the older brother who the rest revere, the teachers still gush about and the other siblings kind of speak of in hushed tones. Little Ruckus is the party kid always looking for a good time that can bridge the gap amongst all the cliques. Trouble Lights is the overachieving valedictorian/ lead in the school musical. Animal is the bookish girl in the library reading Beowulf or Walden who may have a dark side waiting to come out. (Incidentally, Mr. Nasti is the cool kid with a troubled past who moves into the attic and is practically family. Like Cody from Step By Step or the Fonz).

Now with the release of Control’s self-titled debut, we get where they fit into the family. They’re the kid who set up a room in the basement even though they had a perfectly nice room on the second floor and reads dog-eared copies of Marquis de Sade novels by candelabrum.  The kid who paints roses black and is a little too fascinated with cemeteries. Control probably owns several black shirts. Control is the boy my daughter is going to bring home and then demand I don’t embarrass her, but I will probably try to talk about Bauhaus and the time in my life when I painted my fingernails. Sure, the DNA is there, but the rest of the family is a little scared of Control.

Okay, enough ham-fisted analogies, the thing Control shares the most with all of these bands is that they’re very unique to the scene and they’re very good.  The album is the best blend of the darker elements of Depeche Mode with a hint of Type O Negative. They’re over-pouring with lust and teeming with danger.  The Fairfield DNA is there though. The opening synth riff of the first single “Corpse” is electric and mesmerizing and the chorus bed’s Joseph Mayfield’s baritone in a hypnotic way. You can tell the familial ties.

Now while it is synth heavy, it veers slightly from the rest of the family and that’s with Joey Del Re’s guitar. The guitar work on “Hardwired” does segue into a synth beat, but it has a roadhouse quality to it that you wouldn’t expect. It also sneaks its way into the slower and somewhat sweet “Tonight” (although I probably totally blew the meaning of that song. Great, I’m totally embarrassing my daughter). I think from beginning to end this album is a success. While I think some might find it a little too, I dunno, dark, I think it doesn’t completely overwhelm you in darkness. It is just a cool and interesting listen.


Try Not To Miss Shows – 9/19 -9/25

Cody Kowalik, GoodcaT and Aaron Earl Short from The High Quest – The House of Bricks 9/19 9pm

A little acoustic show from some talented songwriters.

Druids w/ John the Bastard and Fetal Pig – Vaudeville Mews 9/20 10pm

This is some of the best rock music in Iowa. Not super thrashy, but heavy enough. Druids are starting to get a solid buzz, John the Bastard is fun and Fetal Pig is powerfully underrated in this scene.

The Grahams w/ Korby Lenker – Vaudeville Mews 9/22 630pm

I spoke of The Grahams last week, and for those who like Americana and roots music, this is a good band to check out.

ACTN w/ Stewardesses and Mad Wheel Starfish – Gas Lamp 9/22 8pm

Some chill electronic pop. ACTN and Stewardesses and both just super enchanting.

JD Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers – Vaudeville Mews 9/23 8pm

This is some old timey, Earthy fast and hot. Its rockabilly and bluesy and, I dunno, it’s awesome.