Five Songs, 1/29/2021
Five Songs

Five Songs, 1/29/2021

Jesus Jones, "The Devil You Know"

After the enormous success of "Right Here, Right Now" carried Doubt everywhere, Jesus Jones was faced with the prospect of following up a massive hit, a task which has broken many bands. The followup came a couple years later, and Perverse achieved nowhere the same level of success. Partly, those two years hurt. Partly, it was due to the pop music world having moved on to other shiny objects. It certainly didn't help when one of the biggest bands associated with the scene, the Stone Roses, remained adamantly MIA. But for the last part, it was due to Perverse being not a terribly likable album. The shiny, crowd-pleasing stuff just wasn't there. It's very electronics focused, an emphasis on only one half of the Madchester formula, but it winds up feeling imbalanced. It's really almost trending towards industrial dance, but kind of falls into an uncanny valley.

Hepcat, "Hooligans"

The first Hepcat album, on Moon Ska, set the template for both the rest of their career as well as setting them apart from much of the burgeoning third wave. By focusing on the traditional music, they provided a much more timeless sound. While I think their songwriting would improve with later albums, even from the jump, they're enjoyable.

Yesterday's New Quintet, "Uno Esta"

One of Madlib's many, many aliases, Yesterday's New Quintet is his instrumental project focusing on a jazz/hip-hop fusion. Jazz has, of course, been a part of the language of hip-hop from the beginning, with jazz records providing many of the bedrock loops for so many early rap hits. Madlib is really pushing things further towards jazz, so this feels much more like a hip-hop inflected jazz record than the other way. It's an interesting experiment, but not one of the crucial records in Madlib's (great!) discography.

Elliott Smith, "Baby Britain"

Smith's career really divides into two halves. In the first half, the songs, production, and arrangements were more sparse and much more focused on his voice and his guitar. But after "Miss Misery" and the resulting attention, he shifted to much bigger albums. XO is the first of those big records, and it's hard to avoid comparisons to The Beatles. You can tell it's hard, because every single published review of the record mentions them. Tired comparisons aside, it's impressive that Smith's songs translate so well between the intimate records and the lush records. In fact, the two records on the border of the transition (Either/Or and this one) are his best records, speaking to his versatility.

Panopticon, "Client"

Panopticon's crossover success with Kentucky in particular made them (well, him) one of the biggest black metal bands around. So it wasn't a surprise that the two albums prior to Kentucky got reissued a couple years ago, with a new mastering and packaged together as Revisions of the Past. While it's not as diverse sounding as his later work, Austin Lunn still can't resist blending other things in, as there is definitely some death metal here.

Joshua Buergel
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