IAMX is the solo moniker of Chris Corner, formerly of Sneaker Pimps. (I only mention Sneaker Pimps because they were one of my favorite bands and I still love them.) Thus far, IAMX has released five studio albums along with a live album, a remix album and a few EPs. His first release was the EP Your Joy Is My Low from January of 2004; his debut album Kiss + Swallow was released in July of 2004. I can honestly say that I adore all of his albums equally. Regardless of which you choose to check out first, you can’t go wrong. Not if you like trippy, often gloomy pop with lots of electronic embellishments.
Of course, I do realize that most of the people who’ll be reading this are already loyal IAMX junkies. I say junkies because he refers to drugs and addiction often in his songs. And that includes “Happiness,” his new single, the first to be released from his forthcoming album Metanoia, which will be released this fall.
“Happiness” is an interesting song because he’s initially striving for happiness but the often fierce music envelops him in darkness. To that end, the synth and various sound effects we hear in the background are all gloomy. “Staring blank at my screen / Waiting for a sign / Waiting for a smile / To come to me / Happiness,” he sings, sounding discouraged as much as hopeful. Soon he’s exclaiming, “Liar! Liar!” As the song progresses, he’s clearly re-thinking the whole idea of happiness, contemplating whether or not it’s something he actually wants. “Maybe the drugs are the only way to be free of happiness,” he sings, wondering if he should actually take measures to deliberately avoid happiness. Suffice to say, it’s a song that makes you think, which is often the case with Corner’s music. Even the videos and other visuals he makes to accompany his songs are always thought-provoking, and his ability to create this sort of art is his greatest strength. But his songs aren’t avant garde, or otherwise barely accessible material. On the contrary, “Happiness” is rather contagious, especially after you’ve heard it a few times. But if you like trip-hop or darkwave, you’re sure to love it from first listen.
The B-side here is a Gary Numan remix of “Happiness.” But it’s not a dance or any other sort of club remix. Rather, it’s simply an alternate version of the song. Whereas the original version begins with acoustic guitar, Numan’s take starts off with quiet, distorted synth and that minimalistic music is what we continue to hear right up to the point where Corner first exclaims, “Liar! Liar!” But even then, the intense music Numan provides at that point only lasts briefly, the song reverting back to the low-key music following the chorus. But once it hits the chorus for the second time, the beats finally drop and they’re quite sonorous and fetching. From that point on, Numan’s mix rivals the original in severity.
Personally, I am fond of both versions of the song and don’t see any reason to declare one better than the other. Corner and Numan are both geniuses of electronic (and other) music, whom I greatly respect, so I wouldn’t dare insult one of them.
If you’ve heard IAMX before and weren’t somehow repulsed then I should think you’ll go gaga over this black gem of a song. For those who’ve never heard his music, this is as good a place as any to start. Just prepare to have your whole concept of “happiness” challenged.