It’s 3 a.m. and you turn on the TV for a syndicated late night movie. Night in the city circa 1983: rain-slicked streets and overwhelming darkness. The rapid click-clack of high heels echoes as a thin figure in a raincoat hurries along the sidewalk. She’s lost.
A low rumble on the soundtrack as a figure steps out of the darkness and drags her kicking and screaming into an alley, where other punks wait to join in. A quiet pounding grows louder, accompanied by discordant notes, as the act of violence is imminent.
Then another figure appears, gun leveled at the thugs attacking the lost woman, and the drums kick in under an insistent bass line and menacing synth, and you know Wings Hauser or Charles Bronson or whoever this guy is will soon be dealing out gruesome Reagan-era justice. A minute later, the punks are all dead and you’ve got time to look this up on IMDB while your local TV station pays the bills with a block of phone sex commercials.
Makeup and Vanity Set’s latest EP, Charles Park III, is a dead-on tribute to the sound and atmosphere of early 80s action films. MAVS is a mostly one-man band out of Nashville, although on this release he has guests playing live bass and Moog to help flesh out the arrangements and add to the illusion that this is the soundtrack to a long-lost 80s action/revenge movie.
Charles Park III, as the title suggests, is the latest in MAVS’s Charles Park series of EPs, each one exploring a different theme: Charles Park II was a similarly uncanny invocation of late 70s/early 80s Italian horror (particularly zombie) film scores. The first Charles Park EP had a track on it called “Phillip Michael Thomas,” which is pretty self-explanatory.
While most MAVS releases have been at least partially informed by chiptunes– culminating in this year’s “Never Let Go,” a brilliantly seamless collision of 8-bit sounds and traditional synth– Charles Park III has a warm, analog sound throughout. The album is heavily influenced by John Carpenter’s work as a composer: the theme from “Escape from New York” would feel right at home next to tracks like “Blood Oath” and “Search the Night.” It’s also virtually impossible to hear “The Faceless Man” on this EP and not have William Lustig’s “Maniac” immediately come to mind.
While there may be a number of other artists out there mimicking 80s sounds, there’s no one else doing so as lovingly, meticulously and earnestly as Makeup and Vanity Set.