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Album Review: iDKHOW – ‘1981 Extended Play’

An 80s mystery or smart modern alt-pop?

Nicole Kitchens

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“Now, let’s begin.”

The introduction to 1981 Extended Play, the latest EP from I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME — otherwise known simply as iDKHOW — beckons listeners to dive into their outrageous backstory: this might be a project from drummer Ryan Seaman (Falling in Reverse) and bassist Dallon Weekes (Panic! At the Disco) but that’s not what they want you to think.

The group portrays themselves as a lost band from the 70s and 80s that never quite got their shot at fame. Now, thanks to YouTube, the group has been uncovered by today’s modern audience. This EP is their fresh start as an act with a second chance to prove themselves.

iDKHOW is Weekes chance to prove who he is away from the Panic! shadow. He left the band in 2017, which is when he officially announced the formation of iDKHO, after months of performing secret shows with Seaman. 

The EP is the band’s first release since 2017’s Modern Day Cain, and it truly showcases the group’s full talent and potential as an up and coming act — if their personas didn’t make it in the 70s and 80s, it’s only because they were way ahead of their time.

The group’s unique brand of retro alt-pop combines elements of 80s synth with Muse-esque guitars,  at times even sounding like a poppier, airier version of the alt rock giants. That’s especially true on lead single “Choke,” a contagious bop with unassumingly dark lyrics. 

I wouldn’t hesitate, to smile while you suffocate and die,” Dallon threatens over a cheerfully horn-laden chorus. 

“Social Climb” employs choppy synthesizers, with a melodic bassline serving as the song’s backbone. “Bleed Magic” will definitely be a fan-favorite: the fast-paced track employs soaring vocals and a poppy backbeat that almost forces you against your will to dance along.

“Do it All the Time” is probably the most 1981 sounding track on the album — the groove of vintage synthesizers and the funk guitar recall multitudes of one hit wonder 80s songs. iDKHOW weave nostalgia and modern alternative pop almost effortlessly, and this track is a clear example.

From the dismal lyrics to the ominous band name to the faux-mystery of the group’s backstory, it would seem that 1981 Extended Play is hardly jovial, but that couldn’t further from the truth. 

While listening to iDKHOW, it’s almost impossible not to smile. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Nicole Kitchens is a Journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She is an avid music writer and once received an Instagram like from Keith Richards -- she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. To read more of her reviews and features, visit her blog: https://www.theelectricblonde.com/. Also, follow her Hunter-Thompson-esque adventures on Instagram: @nicolekitchens

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