Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers, Mine Is Not a Holy War

Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers, Mine Is Not a Holy War

Make no mistake about it, Jihad Jerry, aka Gerry Casale, is Devo, and Devo is the ’80s. The opening bars of “The Time is Now,” the first track on Mine Is Not a Holy War, slap you back to that most maligned of musical decades faster than being butt-fucked by a Member’s Only jacketed Cory Feldman. For the next 34-and-one-half minutes, you will be treated to a panoply of throwback tunes, modified pop-rock standards, and a few Weird Al Yankovic moments. All in all, it’s about what one would expect from the guy behind the design of those crazy orange hats.

I won’t even bother getting into the sardonic back-story provided for Jihad and his compatriots. If you really want to know, just look them up on Allmusic. I will tell you that the inane nature of the band name, album title, and cover art are definitely harbingers of things to come. I worked hard not to judge this album before hearing it, and succeeded only in temporarily suspending my disbelief. Mine Is Not a Holy War, despite its earnestness-through-farce approach, rarely reaches much higher than empty quasi-political whining and cheap, almost slap-stick comedy. Often in the same breath.

For all of Jihad Jerry’s foul-crying over the deplorable state of modern, specifically American, culture, I can’t help but shake the nagging feeling that this whole record buys into it. A few things point me in that direction. Allow me to enumerate:

  1. Jihad Jerry was birthed, and this record released, in a musical environment which has proven to be highly lucrative for ’80s nostalgia acts and post-punk revival wannabes. You know who I’m talking about, right?
  2. The production is so slick that the disc practically flies out of your hands the second you take it out of the jewel case. Slick production just seems to be counterintuitive for a guy who is, ostensibly, fighting the mainstream.
  3. Jihad Jerry sells t-shirts. And ring-tones.
  4. Devo 2.0

Of course, none of this really makes a difference if you dig the music. I didn’t. It’s not that it’s poorly performed. It just feels like, musically, they’re just going through the motions. Part of that, I suspect, is the overly slick production mentioned above, but there’s also the fact that I never got a sense of inventiveness. Devo, while not my favorite group by any stretch of the imagination, at least challenged the contemporary musical conventions of its time. Hell, they were one of the first pop groups to base their sound around a synthesizer. Jihad Jerry, on the other hand, just seems to regurgitate.

There are a few fun tunes, and a few interesting moments. Flagship tune “Army Girls Gone Wild” is definitely catchy. It’s got a nice driving bass line which provides a much-needed dose of funk, and the lyrics are amusing even if the sarcasm is a bit thick. It’s hard not to at least smirk at a line like “…You have the right to remain naked / She’s gonna show you what it means to liberate.” The overall sense I’m left with after hearing this tune is that Weird Al got hooked up with a really good backing band. The “Bad to the Bone” riffing of “Beehive” is amusing in a kind of B-52’s-meet-Southern Culture on the Skids way. “What’s in a Name” marries 1970s-style scratchy wah-wah guitar with harmonica and a Stop Making Sense-era Talking Heads feel. While not terribly interesting or original, these are all fairly enjoyable listens.

“Danger” and “I Need a Chick” share a strange affinity for ribald lyrical misogyny. After listening to these two, I’m surprised Tipper Gore didn’t get her little hands on this disc. The former is a song about the problems caused when a sexual fantasy meets reality. The protagonist is “tricked” into a threesome with his girlfriend’s girlfriend, crying all the while, “What’s a man supposed to do / When fantasies of sex come true?” The latter is a repetitive chant, with Jihad declaring (please correct me if I am mishearing these lyrics) “I need a chick / to suck-a my dick / I need a cat to stroke-a my bat / I need a dog to lick-a my hog.” I honestly can’t figure out what Casale was thinking, there.

The award for strangest musical menagerie on this disc, though, goes to “All She Wrote.” It opens with a sloppily-staccato guitar lick reminiscent of a poorly imitated Franz Ferdinand imitation of Gang of Four. From there it devolves into a strange war of the sexes dueling rap between Jihad and one of The Evildoers. When I listen to this song, I simply cannot avoid picturing a pasty-faced Mike Myers as Dr. Evil. Again, I’m not sure what Jihad Jerry was hoping to accomplish with this, but it certainly doesn’t do anything for me.

I think that the best representation of what I don’t like about this album can be found in “If the Shoe Fits.” Not much to say here, really. This is just two minutes of inane, anti-Bush prattle. Riddled with Yiddish. If Jihad Jerry is going for a sincere political message, this isn’t it. If he’s going for a humorous send-up of the current political situation, this isn’t it. The only thing I get here is that Gerald V. Casale thinks that our president is a complete idiot and can’t think of an intelligent, creative or actually humorous way to say it. And the music is nothing special, either.

All in all, Jerry falls flat because he fails to focus enough in any direction. The music is competently performed, but un-inspiring. The humour is either juvenile, obvious, or just not humorous. The political bent is not particularly intelligent. Actually, with these three statements in a row, this record ends up looking like a pretty good representation of the subject of Jihad Jerry’s fatwa: modern American culture.

(Cordless Recordings -- 1290 Avenue of the Americas 24 Floor, New York, NY. 10104; http://www.cordless.com/; More Gold Records -- http://www.moregoldrecords.com/; Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers -- http://www.mineisnotaholywar.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, March 24th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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