Brothers Jason Novak and Ethan Novak started Acumen Nation while they were students at DePaul University in 1988. Between them they had strong talent on vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, and a desire to express their unique musical talent through techno-like, guitar-driven rock. Joining them was Gregory Lope (bass, drums, and backing vocals). Unable to invent a name that reflected their style and didn't sound stupid, they chose the name "Acumen" from a thesaurus: it means understanding. About the same time, a bluegrass band in Ohio also decided this was a good name. The two bands tangled for over two years and spent months in a lawsuit before the trio decided to change their name by adding the word "Nation." Acumen Nation ultimately became a better choice.
The band's demo album, Transmissions From Eville, was released in 1995. "Eville" exists as a sick town in one's state of mind, and is a play of words on Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. Jamie Duffy (guitar and backing vocals) joined the band in 1996, and the Fifth Column label released their first full-length album, Territory Means the Universe. However, in 1997, Acumen Nation was able to change its label to Conscience Records, which released two albums that year, More Human Heart and Unkind. In 1998, they released a single, If You Were, carrying the partial-title track "Bleed for You," in addition to a full album, Universe; each release reflected more and more growth, control, and creativity in expressing their dark and melodic techno breakbeats. For live performances, they often played self-produced film clips on the backdrop, creating an audio-visual sensory experience that could leave the captivated audiences exhausted.
By 1998, Acumen Nation acquired an alter-ego, DJ? Acucrack, that continued with the driving drum'n'bass merged with the techno/electronic beats that Acumen Nation had developed. With much of its energy going toward the alter ego, Acumen Nation didn't release another album for four years. Signed to its new label, Cracknation Records, the band recorded 5ifth Column for release in May 2002. ~ Eleanor Ditzel