Jimmy Eat World/Blueprint
"Christmas Card"/"In-Between Angels"
Dunno Jimmy Eat World very well at all (in fact, this is only the second thing I've actually heard by them; don't they have an album out on a major label or something, now?), but I have to say that they do that melodic pop-punk thing pretty well. The first track, "Christmas Card," is beautifully melodic stuff, nice and dissonant at points but rocking and propulsive at others; the second part, "Untitled," on the other hand, opts to stay quiet, slow, and minimal, slowly building layers of sound until the very end -- I particularly like the cool feedback underlying the whole thing. Both songs (if they're actually two separate songs; I'm not really sure) are really cool, really well-done, and really emotional. I like.
After hearing the first side of this record, I was kind of afraid that maybe Blueprint wouldn't stand up very well against Jimmy Eat World, but boy, was I wrong. This is hands-down the coolest Blueprint song I've heard since I heard the version of "Dream & Weep" that's on the Justice Records Hellhole comp. It's remarkably complex, very melodic, and extremely impassioned rock, with a chorus that absolutely blows me away -- it's kind of a shame, actually, that they don't really sound like this anymore (I'm told they're more like Tortoise now, of all things [Ed. Note: not really.]); I believe that this is really a recording from the older incarnation of the band, just released after its demise. Between the 2 bands on here, anyway, this is some of the coolest shit I've heard in a while. (JH)
(Abridged Records -- P.O. Box 571221, Houston, TX. 77257)
Jump With Joey
Strictly For You, Vol. 2
Anybody with any doubts, listen up: Jump With Joey is one of the finest traditional ska acts around; personally, I'd put 'em up there in my own top five or so, along with folks like Skavoovie and the Epitones or NYC's Scofflaws. The criminal thing about it, though, is that only this past year have most American fans been able to get a hold of any of the albums Joey Altruda & company have put out -- when they started out, no label would touch them here in the U.S., so they ended up releasing their first three albums, Ska-Ba, Generations United, and this album here, all on the Japanese Parco label. Thankfully, Rykodisc has finally been able to re-release Jump With Joey's stuff over here (nicely packaged, by the way, with okay liner notes)...
For explanation's sake (and to give a hint what this sounds like): like I said up above, Jump With Joey are straightforward "traditional" ska, and I mean the serious old-school stuff, from back in the day in Jamaica. Don't expect any punk guitars, ultra-high-speed tempos, or hell, even much singing -- instead, this is an album's worth of smooth, mellow, jazz-y instrumentals with tons of horn parts; ska the way people like Prince Buster and the Skatalites used to do it. And to be honest, that's no huge surprise, considering this album is about half covers of songs by legendary Skatalites saxophonist Roland Alphonso and Studio One head Coxsone Dodd...both of whom played on or had a hand in putting this album together. No, seriously. Alphonso tears it up on sax, and Dodd supervised most of the recording sessions -- man, Joey Altruda is one lucky guy... He and the other members of the band do themselves proud, though, breezing through the songs with effortless skill and adding a fair bit of their own Latin flavor.
They hit high notes on the cover of Mancini's "A Shot In The Dark," and The Skatalites' "Look Away," "Let Me In The Yard," and "James Bond," in particular, and Jump With Joey's own original compositions "Dr. Ying Yang" (which for some reason makes me envision people dancing on the Promenade Deck of the Love Boat...) and "Ramoncito" stand up surprisingly well against the older "classic" songs. And in the company of folks like Roland Alphonso, that's no mean feat. (JH)
Go! To The Ice Cream Social
Man, these guys are sooo much fun, and this 7", cool as it is, only hints at the goofy pop fun of their shows... Seriously, if you haven't seen a JV show yet, go NOW. They're a blast -- remember the '60s? Well, of course not, and I fucking wasn't around for 'em, either, but there was a time when the Beatles weren't necessarily the epitome of "cool," and Junior Varsity seem to know it pretty well (check out the local zine Brown Paper Sack, by the way, if you'd like to, too -- info's on the zines page).
At any rate, Junior Varsity rock my world -- honest. Yeah, so they're not technically all that great, but really, why the hell do they need to be? And besides, take a listen to the rockin' sort-of-solo in their cover of "Hot Rod" (I think it's a cover, anyway) -- how can you beat that? JV are as good as they need to be. These are all goofy, bare-bones retro-pop songs about ice cream, nerdy boyfriends, and my favorite scary Mexican restaurant, La Tapatia, done with a little hint of surf-rock and a hell of a lot of style and humor. Buy this and force everyone you know to listen to it, right? I wish all bands were Junior Varsity. (Scary thought, eh?) (JH)
(Peek-A-Boo Records -- P.O. Box 49542, Austin, TX. 78765, (512) 477-4636)