Jealous Creatures, The Night Goes on for Days

Jealous Creatures, <i>The Night Goes on for Days</i>

Alright, so I’m gonna go out on a little bit of a limb, here: I think Jealous Creatures’ latest full-length, The Night Goes on for Days, is a sneaky, semi-secret, undeclared concept album of sorts. No, I’m serious. If I’m wrong, I’m sure the folks in the band will set me straight, but after repeated listenings to Night, it’s hard for me to escape the idea — it all just holds together so nicely and moves so seamlessly from one track to the next, and throughout, there’s this dark, murky undercurrent of regret and loss and, yeah, just a bit of fear.

With that declaration out of the way, what do I think this maybe-kinda concept album is about? Well…I think it’s about a family, a fractured, damaged family like so many out there are. I think these songs track that family’s history, with “Baby Teeth,” which is seemingly the story of a girl who gets left by her parents in the hands of another relative, maybe a grandmother (an aunt?) and is forced to wonder where the hell her life’s supposed to go, serving as the centerpiece.

The languid, heavy-lidded “Tamed” fits in, as well, recounting how somebody who’s not the song’s narrator “tames” an individual that at first glance might be a dog but later on sounds like an actual person. “A Little Silence” is from the parents’ viewpoint, then, speaking to a child and asking for a little peace while they work and strive to make a life for the family. Then there’s “Pieces,” where singer/guitarist Sarah Hirsch asks, “Will I ever see you again? / Will I ever get to hear you say my name?”, and it feels like it’s the voice of the narrator all grown up, an adult now, thinking about finding her parents.

The album’s closing track, “No Sooner Did It Begin,” also closes out the arc of the story, with the narrator meeting her estranged father and realizing that he’s no monster, despite what she’s been told all these years. “So he wasn’t my hero / so he was no prince,” Hirsch sings, “But he was not the animal / you made him to be,” recognizing that there’s always two sides to a story, and family stories are no different. It feels like closure, like a girl grown up, seeing her parents as actual, flawed people for the first time and coming to grips with that shift in perspective.

That darkness I mentioned above runs through the music, as well, from the first burst of murky, ragged guitars on “The Last Deal” to the last bit of fingerpicked guitar at the end of “No Sooner Did It Begin.” That’s no real surprise, though, coming from this band — Jealous Creatures have always managed to cultivate this feeling of somber, slow-burning regret and pain in their music — but with Night they truly hold tight to that for the length of the album.

“The Last Deal” kicks things off with a growl, the guitars rumbling like the sound of tectonic plates shifting beneath your feet, although even then the Creatures have a little bit of tinkling piano lurking in the background, which is a nice touch. Despite the grimness of the lyrics, Hirsch doesn’t sound angry, just resigned and determined not to make the same mistake twice. The intro of “As I Fall Apart” echoes Blondie’s “One Way or Another” pretty undeniably, but quickly steps out of that into its own awesome groove.

“Baby Teeth” is one of my favorite tracks here, snarling, creepy, sharp-edged, and somewhat bitter, with a down-low bass and far-distant, echoing guitar line starting off and then transitioning into buzzsaw guitars at the chorus; the end result is like a crossbreeding between Foo Fighters and Cowboy Junkies, in part due to Hirsch’s vocals. Her voice is gorgeous on the album, as always, bringing to mind Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), Sally Ellyson (Hem), Aimee Mann, and Pat Benatar in equal measure.

In fact, here she sounds more polished and confident than she ever has before, and that’s no mean feat. I’ve known for a while that was an excellent singer, but on Night (on “Captivated by the Night” and “You Can Trust Me,” in particular) she demonstrates just how good she truly is. Even in a city with a ton of excellent female singers, Hirsch stands above the pack, at least from where I’m sitting.

For its part, “Captivated by the Night” is much more out-West-sounding than the preceding tracks, with Giant Sand-esque guitars, a great, great organ sound, and a delicate, slow-paced, ambling rhythm. It’s probably one of the more Cowboy Junkies-like tracks on here, and one of the handful that sound the most like the band’s previous albums, to me.

And since I talked up Hirsch’s vocals, I now feel like I need to talk up the other folks in the band a bit, as well. For one thing, Ian Hlavacek’s guitar sounds better on The Night Goes on for Days than it ever has before — he’s stretching out more and sounding like a real-live guitar hero, and that’s a very, very good thing. His guitar lines bring to mind Neil Young at his best, while bringing in all kinds of outside influences besides.

Then there’s the rhythm section, drummer Josh Barry and bassist Meghan Anderson; the former is freaking spot-on here, playing these effortless little fills that never sound tacked-on and going from low-key country drumming to full-on rawk thunder in a heartbeat, while the latter provides the bulk of that “dark” sound in general, a menacing, foreboding rumble that also pulls the song along, Kim Deal-fashion, when it’s necessary.

Those two really get to show off, by the by, on instrumental “Man and the Wolf,” and holy hell, what an instrumental. It’s a damn-near-perfect, roaring melding of surf-rock and, say, Rocket From The Crypt, and it thunders and barrels its way through the moonlit, spooky woods at night like the title creature, demolishing anything in its path. “Lil Miss Pout” and “Pieces” are more straightfoward, rough-edged indie-rock, the latter in particular with a wonderful melody and poignant, contemplative vocals.

“You Can Trust Me” takes a quieter turn, seductive and pleading and hopeful over a road-worn, old-school country backdrop, and it’s a beautiful thing. Then there’s “A Little Silence,” which is fragile and soul-ful, almost a Phil Spector ballad complete with bomp-bomp rhythms and a real-live tambourine.

I’ve already talked a bit about “No Sooner Did It Begin” in terms of the hypothetical overarching story, but it bookends the musical side of things, as well. It starts off slow and heavy, with a glam-rock vibe, but gets softer and more thoughtful after that, with Hlavacek throwing these little bits of Spanish-sounding acoustic guitar in between the stomping parts, drifting in and out beneath Hirsh’s voice. It’s a truly great, high-water-mark song, one that’s as packed full of meaning as it is musical goodness, and it’s one of the best things Jealous Creatures has ever done.

Now, I’ll grant that my whole “concept album” thing may not fly for everybody, but really, it doesn’t have to — the music stands awesomely well all on its own. But if you can grab hold of that storyline that I’d swear I see in these songs (although, again, I’ll humbly apologize to all and sundry if I’m completely wrong), it adds a whole other level of meaning to an already stellar album.

The Night Goes on for Days is Jealous Creatures’ best effort yet, one that sees them laying firm claim to their little special musical realm. There’s nobody who sounds quite like this band, and you need to hear them.

(Feature photo by Michael Villegas.)

[Jealous Creatures are playing their album release 7/25/15 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Second Lovers, Spain Colored Orange, & Fear the Poet.]
(self-released; Jealous Creatures --; Jealous Creatures (Facebook) --; Jealous Creatures (Twitter) --; Jealous Creatures (Bandcamp) --; Jealous Creatures (Reverbnation) --
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, July 25th, 2015. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Jealous Creatures, The Night Goes on for Days

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK Review! | Jealous Creatures on July 30th, 2015 at 11:15 am

    […] Thank you Jeremy Hart for the amazing review! […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yes, Indeed! 2015, This Saturday! (Rundown, Pt. 1): Bee Caves + The Working Girls + Jealous Creatures + Black Kite + Moji + Blue Healer + Wrestlers + RIVERS + Handsomebeast on September 18th, 2015 at 1:54 am

    […] unstudied nonchalance. Live, they’re something to see, believe me, and check out new album The Night Goes on for Days, below. [Jealous Creatures plays at 7:30PM at The Big […]

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