OK folks, I have learned a sharp, harsh lesson about WordPress. If you are writing a blog entry and you push “ctrl + a” by accident, say when trying to italicize or underline something, it will “select all” and you better hope to God your next move is not ANYTHING AT ALL because you push so much as one key and your entire document is toast. WordPress understands all hotkey commands but can’t seem to wrap its head around using “undo” more than one time.
The victim in my harsh lesson is the ENTIRE blog entry I spent nearly an hour writing. We were at about 500 words when *poof* the entire thing is gone, and on this the day I forgot to open Wordpad and keep a constant backup draft going. Ne’er shall the mistake be repeated! I am going to power on and try to write about this album, and this time I am going to master and defeat WordPress’ shortcomings.
On with the show!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had picked up an album without knowing anything about the band or what they even sound like. I have had excellent luck before in this regard, however, so I figured what the hey. What I did know going in was that the blurbs on the front of the album promised 60′s-style British garage-rock that “hits every note on all cylinders”. I figured that was good enough so I’d better give it a shot.
Thankfully, I was not disappointed!
There is still not a lot that I know about Jarvis Humby. What I figured after listening to the album a few times is that they are either very clever young guys or slightly older guys that have been doing this for years and are only just now seeing a bit of distribution in America. Turns out the latter is true, the band has actually been doing their thing since 1990 (according to the Myspace), and they’re still clever enough to know the right way to start an album.
As soon as you hit “play” the music doesn’t waste a single second blasting you straight into the kind of party that I don’t get invited to. A wave of guitars and fast-paced rhythmic groove and that wonderful wall of organs (the band definitely seems to believe in the holy trinity of electric organs: Hammond, Farfisa, and Wurlitzer) are the name of the game for the majority of this album, and are all in full-effect from the first song, entitled “We Say Yeah!” which is a party-song title if I ever heard one.
Being an overly-shrewd music listener, I expected that the band would plateau on the party-vibe and stay there all night. Thus, I was delighted to find the second song, “These Eyes”, after a hot bassline intro (I love those) brings in a sitar, possibly in an effort to really drill it into people’s heads that this band is trying to be *straight out of the 60′s*.
Really though, I am not sure about that. For one, the sound is definitely a modern, clean sound, and it sounds very “together” versus the much looser sound of actual bands from the 60′s. This is either a noble effort on the band’s part to not put too much effort into sounding authentic to the point where it bogs down the already-good songs, or it could be that they just couldn’t afford the gear to do so. I’m thinking it’s a little from both camps, since the liner notes and Myspace tend to color the band as a bunch of blokes who don’t take themselves too seriously, and I can only imagine they are not quite on the “solid gold helicopters” echelon of wealth, either.
There is no shortage of wealth when it comes to organs on the next track, though (man I’m getting better at these segues). “99 Steps To The Sun” combines the exquisite, warm tones of the keyed instruments with a rhythm groove that incorporates reverbed drums. Psychedelic! I imagine this might be the kind of sound Smashmouth was going for over a decade ago before they turned into a cupcakes and ham disaster.
The album brings the energy right back up exactly as an album should, with a second song that starts with a rockin’ bassline (I LOVE those), “TV 200″, which would be an instrumental if not for 4 words repeated occasionally. I can’t really understand what those words are, it almost sounds like “Space ball, blast off”, but I could be wrong. Maybe these guys will be big enough one day to have a spyware-ridden lyrics site reprint their stuff without permission. Until then…
The next song, “Vampyros Hetros”, contains another move I adore in a rock song: the lyrics being sang over drums-only as they groove away (think “Fire” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience). I couldn’t tell you where in Music History that first occurred, but it was a very good idea. I think it was Little Richard, and if it wasn’t, I’m sure he’d be happy to take the credit for it.
We then move on to what I believe is a cover song. Unfortunately, as often is the way with cover songs, I have no idea who originally performed it, and I can’t be arsed to check. It’s called “Oh Baby (I Believe I’m Losing You)”, and contains one of the better vocal performances on the album. In fact, the soul influence in this man’s voice is so close to James Brown you just really want him to take that extra step and be more energetic and screamy, but maybe that’s too much to ask. Again we’ve got the vocals+drums groove move going on here, with the addition of one or two people “woo”-ing and clapping along. This is a very close second to hot bassline intros in terms of something that will make me instantly love a song, and I do love this song, and I believe I did so instantly.
How do you follow up a great cover and maintain the groove in the middle of an album? I have heard many decent attempts at preventing late-album slowdown from setting in early, and certainly “Badger” is one of them. It’s a fast-paced instrumental with the volume cranked that would have been appropriate and yet WRONG if it were put in the front of the album (I bet they open shows with this track I JUST BET). Of note is the fact that the album includes “Love to much missed Badger”, so I guess the track is a tribute to a dog, roadie, or maybe even an actual badger!
From there it’s time to visit an old blues standard in terms of song subjects: “Blackcat”. I think this song actually might have been a blues song at one point, as it’s definitely a cover. There’s not much to note in it, nor in the next song, either that or album slowdown has NOT been prevented!
The 10th song on the album, however, at least shakes things up and reminds us once again that this is a “60′s-style” album. It’s an instrumental called “The 4th Man” that is the quintessential “spy song with surf guitar”. I appreciate these to a point, and this one is definitely solid, but I always think less of spy movies and more like “parodies of spy movies” when I hear them nowadays.
Don’t despair though, the album picks right back up where it left off with “Formaldehyde”, and “Ain’t No Friend Of Mine”, the latter of which features a strange interlude where someone recounts “meeting Jarvis Humby” in 1962 (it sounds like a joke but I can’t understand the punchline). The album then pulls a very unusual move indeed.
The final two tracks are called “Majestic 12″ and “Man With The X-Ray Eyes (Silver Surfer)”. This is very much a mistake, as the actual 13th song starts with “I’m the Silver Surfer man, I ride the cosmic waves” and contains the phrase “Man With The X-Ray Eyes” in the chorus, and verily the 14th song’s entire chorus is the words “Majestic 12″ repeated over and over again. The only reason I know this wasn’t intentional is because track 13 in the liner notes credits “Flamenco guitar” and “Castanets” which are only present in track 14. Didn’t stop me from mis-naming the two tracks in my Zune though, since the CD tracks are not available in my ripper’s database! Another indication that this CD must not be in very wide circulation yet.
Either way, if you get a chance to listen, I really recommend this album. It’s a whole lot of fun, and these guys have a lot going for them. I am certain I’ll be listening to this album for a long time to come. Hopefully, my good luck streak with uninformed album purchases will continue, but if not, I’m sure you’ll hear about it. Until then, peace and love, man! Groovy!
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