(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CD review - Working For A Nuclear Free City, Jojo Burger Tempest (2010)

Jojo Burger Tempest, due out October 12 from Melodic, spans two discs. The first is a collection of shorter cuts (most run under 4 minutes). The second is a rambling 30 minute title cut. Post-rockers Working For A Nuclear Free City scatter a mix of indie rock and electronic across the project, with elements of retro-spiked experimental rock.

Guitarist Gary McLure explained the wide ranging scope, saying,
“We made so many different tracks, that for the listener to understand the last year of our creativity, 10 tracks just isn't enough. I think that, like it used to be, an album should be a document of what a band has been doing over a certain period of time. And almost everything should be included. Like it or not.”
This is a poor philosophical position. It often leads to the ugly compromise of a band releasing weaker material just to fill out an album. Great artists have weakened their legacy by prolifically releasing everything they do, regardless of quality or context. Prince, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, and even Pablo Picasso have fallen victim to this. This kind of historical record can work; Pete Townsend's Scoop showcased a collection of demos, outtakes, and experiments. But it was successful because of the filtering done to select the material and set a context.

So how does this philosophy work for The Jojo Burger Tempest? Fortunately, the songs on disc one are fairly good. Still, for the amount of time they filled, it would have been better to release fewer songs and take more time to explore the musical themes in the remaining songs. Do A Stunt steps through a set of smaller pieces that shift mood and feel. With a vibe like Yes arranging a Frank Zappa composition, it's a microcosm of the whole album. Electronic bits, rock based rhythmic drive, and interesting progressions all come together. But at 2:44, the musical ideas are hinted at rather than fully explored. Similarly, Pachinko is a bubbling electronic groove with a nice driving bass. The bridge feels expectant before it slides back into the starting part. The club vibe is nice, but it really needs more room to stretch out.

Along with the instrumental pieces, there are some well balanced indie rock numbers.

Working For A Nuclear Free City, Silent Times - on PopMatters

Silent Times (download on PopMatters) is full of satisfying details. Shimmery keyboards slide behind jangly guitars and a warm, melodic bass. The vocals almost sound like the Byrds, but the reverb and slight detune give them a murkier, indie rock feel. In this case, the song has plenty of time to exploit its verse-chorus structure. Little Lenin fuses an electronic intro to a repetitive progressive rock feel, all tied up with a similar indie rock vocal.

The weakest link on the album is the long form title track, The Jojo Burger Tempest. This random collection of song fragments cements a number of homeless musical ideas from the sessions with a bit of sonic collage. It's an artistic statement that may work for some listeners, but doesn't really hold together. There are plenty of interesting bits within that could have developed into good songs.

The Jojo Burger Tempest has its moments, but pins its listeners between short attention span songs and a meandering second disc. Maybe this would pair best with a sampler tray from your favorite brew pub.

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