Welcome to the A&A archives. There are currently 138 reviews in this section. Click on an artist to jump to those reviews, or simply scroll through the list. All reviews written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.

If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.


  • j
  • J Church
  • J.U.R.S. (2)
  • Jackalope Junction
  • Sara Jackson-Holman
  • Jaco's Invention
  • Jacob's Mouse (2)
  • David Jacobs-Strain
  • Robert Jacobson
  • Jaden South
  • Nick Jaina
  • Jaks
  • Jam Syndicate
  • Jam Syndicate
  • Jane Noel
  • The Januaries
  • Japonize Elephants (4)
  • Jarboe
  • Suzanne Jarvie
  • Cosmo Jarvis
  • Jasmine's Bleach
  • Jasper TX
  • Javelin Boot
  • Jawbox (2)
  • Jaww
  • Tommy Jay
  • Jayhawks
  • The Jazz Butcher
  • The Jazz Canon
  • Jazzhole (3)
  • Je Suis France
  • The Jena Campaign
  • Jenifer Convertible
  • Jermflux (3)
  • Jesse and Noah
  • Jessie and Layla
  • Jester's Crown (2)
  • Jestofunk
  • Jesus Lizard (8)
  • Jet Black Crayon
  • Jet by Day
  • Jhno
  • Jibe
  • The Jigsaw Seen
  • Jill
  • Jimmie's Chicken Shack
  • Jimmy Eat World (3)
  • jimmyjack
  • Jindra (3)
  • Joe 4
  • Anders Johansson, Jens Johansson and Allan Holdsworth
  • Jens Johansson
  • John's Black Dirt
  • Johnboy (2)
  • Johnny Bravo
  • Johnny Bronco
  • Johnny Headband
  • Johnny Socko
  • Johnny Too Bad & the Knockouts
  • Johnny Wishbone
  • John Rifle
  • Evan Johns and the H-Bombs
  • Jimmy Johnson
  • Mike Johnson
  • Robert Johnson and the Browns
  • Johny Vegas
  • Jojeto
  • Jolly Mon
  • Jolly Roger
  • Jon Cougar Concentration Camp (2)
  • Jacob Jones
  • Jones Crusher
  • The Jones Street Boys
  • The Jongleurs
  • Jowls
  • The Joykiller (2)
  • Simon Joyner (4)
  • Joyride
  • Jozlin Bones (3)
  • JRK
  • Judas Factor
  • Cary Judd
  • Mike Judge and Old Smoke
  • Judge Nothing (3)
  • Judith
  • Julie the Band
  • June of 44 (4)
  • June Panic (4)
  • June Star
  • Jr. Juggernaut
  • Juniper Lane
  • Junk
  • Junkyard Empire
  • Jupiter Coyote
  • Jupiter One
  • Ted Just
  • Just Plain Big
  • Just Plain Bill
  • Juster
  • Justin Hale
  • JustSayJoe

  • j
    Hynotronic Groovaphonic
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #176, 2/8/99

    The lines between the rap music of the late 80s and today's electronic movement have always been blurred. The former has influenced the latter in innumerable ways. Of late, I've been hearing more and more projects which celebrate this link. J goes more the way of Operation Beatbox, taking pieces of recent and more "classic" hip-hop and fusing them into electronic presentations.

    And he's not above digging into the disco and techno camps, when he feels like it. So what he ends up with is a music form which makes most people uncomfortable. In these days of musical divide, j insists on playing the polymath. Hey, I can dig.

    And in fact, I've never heard anyone able to so smoothly slip from one sound to another while retaining a personal touch. Getting into the second half of the disc (instrumentals), the common bonds are easier to hear, even if the music is more complex.

    I'm simply knocked out. J has vision, and he executes impeccably. This is one of those discs I can't put away. A feast for the music gourmet.


    J Church
    One Mississippi
    (Honest Don's)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    More of that Honest Don's power punk pop. J Church is a bit more into the power than the pop at times, but that doesn't remove any of the charm.

    In fact, some of the meanderings really help to set the band apart. J Church isn't afraid to change up tempos or tackle seemingly obscure subjects. And with 26 songs, well, more than a few lesser-known topics get hit.

    The sonic sheen is pocked with dirty lesions, which works out well for these generally tight songs. There's no need to produce this in a bulletproof fashion. Merely powerful will do.

    One of them sit in the car and crank it up albums. The great choruses just keep on coming, and there's enough variety here that I didn't get bored. There's a veritable mine of fine material on this disc.


    J.U.R.S.
    Driving the World
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    J.U.R.S. is Jacek Usnarski, a guy living in southern California. He puts together sonic collages that fall somewhere in the realm of electronica. This does have the sterile feel of a one-man operation, but Usnarski manages to get enough organic samples into to the mix to keep things on a somewhat rational basis.

    And he likes the funk. Not the bombastic funk of ages, but just that little happy funk feel, enough of the Sly to get you going. And once he gets going, he simply keeps a good thing moving along.

    All good traits. Usnarski is also smart enough to vary his beats and sounds, bouncing about to keep things interesting. In diversity comes strength, and J.U.R.S. sounds good no matter what the bass is doing.

    An impressive home project. This is quality all the way.


    Mindfloater
    (self-released)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    The second homebrew release from Jacek Usnarski. He traffics heavily in the electronic, putting something of a contemporary spin on the sterile techno musings of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream (acknowledged influences)

    He does so by splicing soaring keyboard lines (not washes, but single note leads) with ambient trance and techno grooves. By wandering through a wide variety of melodic and rhythmic ideas, Usnarski packs more than a mouthful into each song.

    But never to overload status. His sparse, sterile sound helps to keep from overwhelming the listener. In your face and pretty as a rose, his songs continue morphing until the final blast.

    I was damned impressed by his first disc, and this set of songs is stronger still. The complexity within these pieces is astonishing. There's so much here to hear.


    Jackalope Junction
    Just Drive
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #223, 10/15/01

    Dragging some groove into smooth country rock, Jackalope Junction tries to have the best of a few worlds. Sometimes it even pulls off the trick quite nicely.

    After all, both laid-back country and groove rock are but different steps away from the blues 'n' boogie, and as long as any merger attempt incorporates that middleman, well, it's bound to work.

    And when the band focuses more on harmony-laden alt. country, well, that works alright as well. Sometimes I think the production punches up the sound a bit too much (these songs aren't quite as grand as the sound might make you think), but that's not a fatal flaw. Might even attract more major-label attention that way.

    And that's where I think these folks are aiming. They might make it. Jackalope Junction has a command of a number of different styles, blending them quite well. I don't think the songwriters are going to run out of good ideas any time soon. Always a good sign.


    Sara Jackson-Holman
    When You Dream
    (Expunged Records)
    reviewed in issue #317, May 2010

    The orchestral pop sound has become more and more of a favorite for young female singer-songwriters of late. Honestly, I like this stuff a lot more than "chick-and-a-guitar" sound any day. This more-crafted stuff is more difficult to create and it puts a lot more emphasis on solid songwriting. All told, Sara Jackson-Holman shows an exceptional amount of range and talent on her first album.

    And she's got the perfect high-alto voice for this sort of piano-based music. Holman-Jackson prefers simple arrangements (her usual instrumentation is piano, keys, bass, drums and maybe some guitar), and this means her songs had better stand up strong.

    They do. There are a few vocal affectations and a bit of studio trickery (filters, echoes and such), but by and large this album is all about her songs and her voice. Both are more than up to the task.

    A blissful experience. These songs are well-built and exceptionally arranged. Holman-Jackson's voice is impeccable. Class all the way.


    Jaco's Invention
    Jaco's Invention EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    The invention of two Jacos, Michele and Danny. The music is commercial-style folk/groove rock, with some nice flourishes.

    Danny does most of the playing (another person helps out occasionally with percussion) and Michele takes care of the singing duties. The vocals are solid, well-suited to the style. I wish Michele had a bit more resonance to her voice (I think it needs to have a bit more depth), but that's probably more a question of recording than singing.

    The music is impeccably played, and when it doesn't hide behind the vocals, it stands out well on its own. Unfortunately, the music undergoes something of a dulling effect. Doesn't have the same snap.

    Good. Competent. Above average at times. But Jaco's Invention just doesn't have that spark I like to hear. Could be the performance, could be the writing, could be the recording or any of the above. I'm not entirely sure. This just didn't make my heart skip a beat. That's all.


    Jacob's Mouse
    No Fish Shop Parking
    (Frontier-BMG)
    reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92

    Take your average pop band. Got it? Crank the volume on the music and vocals and you have Jacob's Mouse. The tunes are so friendly, but the lyrics and presentation tend to shatter eardrums of the stereotypical Posies fan. Damn, kids, this is rock 'n' roll!

    Instantly infectious, further listening will only serve to strengthen your addiction. You say you can't play this on your metal show? Grab this, Overwhelming Colorfast and make for the disc machine in your studio. Diversity rules, or something like that. Jacob's Mouse certainly does.


    I'm Scared
    (Frontier)
    reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93

    Frontier worked their last album to a few stations at a time it seemed, and everyone I know who heard it responded with a hearty "holy shit!".

    The only complaint I had was a fairly muddy production, but that is corrected here. The songs are more coherent, but just as amazingly crunchy as No Fish Shop Parking. You'll be amazed at the sparseness found in the center of such a sonic maelstrom. That sounds awful pretentious, I know, but it's true. This is a really heavy album without overly thick guitar or bass. You hear everything move about and it still amazes.

    No excuse to miss them this time around. Jacob's Mouse is one band to absolutely pick up on.


    David Jacobs-Strain
    Stuck on the Way Back
    (Northern Blues)
    reviewed in issue #231, July 2002

    This disc was produced by Kenny Passarelli, whose work with Otis Taylor and others has been so impressive. And like Taylor, David Jacobs-Strain mixes emotive vocals with intricate guitar strumming and picking to create a somewhat otherworldly version of the blues.

    And whether he's doing classics, his own material or arranging traditional songs long past copyright, Jacobs-Strain firmly stamps down his own imprint. There's no mistaking his handiwork.

    There's also the astonishing sound achieved by producer Passarelli. As I noted, this album bears a passing resemblance to Otis Taylor's fine works, but Jacobs-Strain focuses a little more on his guitar work (which is often achingly beautiful) than on the imagery of his lyrics. There's more of an old-fashioned picking sound here, and it sounds great.

    The power of this album is unmistakable. From the first notes, it is apparent that this disc is not to be missed. The guitar work alone is enough to recommend this set, but Jacobs-Strain has one of those old man voices (particularly surprising for such a young guy) that resonates with the moan of his picking. One of the finds of the year, certainly.


    Robert Jacobson
    Coldwater
    (Banana Bread)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    Robert Jacobson plays guitar. Jazz guitar, that is, but not in any specified way. His playing shifts through almost as many styles as his writing does. For example, the first track ("Grounded") works its way through Dixieland, some Coltrane-style post-bop (I'm not particularly adept with jazz labels, I'm afraid) and a couple other styles as well.

    That's just for starters. Jacobson wails, and he plays it cool. His basic quartet isn't unlike many rock bands (guitar, drums, organ, double bass), except that the bass here isn't electrified. And he's not afraid to wax rock now and again. On "The Airshow," he adopts a laid back roots-prog sound that would make the Dregs proud.

    The production style is fairly flat--that is one area where Jacobson adheres to tradition. His guitar tone also is often almost expressionless in and of itself, allowing Jacobson to show off his skills, rather than those of one effect or another. And while the songs are certainly written with an ear for guitar, the sides here get in plenty of time as well.

    Instrumental guitar albums, be they rock, jazz or classical, are often dull. This is because the player in question only knows one way to play. Jacobson can play anything he wants, and he wants to play everything. This album is a fine showcase, and even better, well worth hearing again and again.


    Jaden South
    Leading the Horse
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #306, April 2009

    Straightforward rootsy stuff with a bit more punch than yer average americana. Jessica Draper and Deborah DeLoach have solid voices than never get brassy. I think that last bit is why I liked this so much.

    In a strange way, it's like listening to the Indigo Girls play hard-rockin' country. Which, of course, is about where Amy and Emily have ended up. These gals don't do it better, but they have written some good songs and sure know how to sing them.

    An exceedingly conventional album, but one that is put together quite well. Slide guitar goes in here, organ here, etc. Predicting the sequencing is a snap. There are no surprises, and I'm okay with that. I'm more interested in hearing what comes next.

    Jaden South has put together a good effort here. I think there's plenty of room for growth, and I'm curious what direction that will take. I'll be listening.


    Nick Jaina
    Wool
    (Hush)
    reviewed in issue #294, March 2008

    There's sparse, and then there's minimalist--and then there's Nick Jaina. He writes songs of exquisite grace and then seemingly forgets to adorn them. The song is all that exists. It's a little disquieting.

    Except, of course, it's very quiet. While these pieces would qualify as introspective and wrenching even without the settings, the bare bones arrangements really set the mood.

    Kinda like some of Tom Waits's more recent albums, though pretty much just Jaina and a piano. Oh, he does pick up something else now and again, but mostly this is piano or keyboards. With something or other that sounds like creaks and whistling wind (guitar pickup distortion? maybe). That last bit is so subtle you might think that's it's simply the wind outside your window.

    Which is probably the point. Jaina has put together a masterful album. The songs are remarkable, and the sound of the recording is almost heart-stopping. Makes even the short hairs stand on end.


    Jaks
    Hollywood Blood Capsules
    (Choke Inc.)
    reviewed in issue #71, 2/28/95

    How might you play pop music and still adhere to the Chicago sound? Well, Jaks didn't quite make it. But the ensuing mess is a fun one to wallow in.

    Pounding bass, wailing guitar and distorted vocals (sure, it sounds a little familiar) are Jaks' hallmarks, but the things I like are the occasional attempts to make this well-defined sound conform to a pop song format. I can almost make out verses and choruses. At times, I said.

    The sparse production is a relief. The instrumentation and vocals are all distinct and clear, and this compliments the fine playing.

    Jaks is going somewhere. I'm not sure where, but I'll stick around for the ride.


    Jam Syndicate
    Jam Syndicate
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #60, 8/15/94

    Technically as advanced as any industrial/dance/pop outfit I've heard. Of course, Rob Jackson's voice doesn't really fit in the heavier songs. Imagine Geddy Lee singing for Chemlab. And the songs, as pretty as they are, just don't have coherent construction, much the same problem as UDS.

    Not bad, just not terribly good.


    Jeffrey James & the Haul
    Ride the Wind Carnival EP
    (Makeshift)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    Six songs that roll through rock and roots and the whole shooting match. On the whole, like Dodd Ferrelle (reviewed above), Jeffrey James stays within the pop universe. Even if there's a bit of a southern breeze blowing through.

    Pleasingly dark at times and generally complex, these songs wend their way through a world that is colored in shades of gray. The sun does shine, but not all the time, even if James's voice is always a ringing joy.

    This sounds a lot to me like an indie rock version of the southern AOR that was modestly popular in the 80s--think bands as disparate as .38 Special and the Georgia Satellites. James and the Haul take anthemic riffs and turn them inside out in a most appealing way. This is really quite cool.


    Jane Noel
    Relax Your Penis
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96

    Three guys from Boston who are obvious fans of NoMeansNo and the Didjits. Wild and wacky punk music, with lots of stuff in the background. Sometimes this works, like on "New Zip Code", which has great riffage and is pretty entertaining to boot.

    But more of it is just kinda messy. That's not terrible, and I applaud the guys for trying. Maybe someday they will have the talent to pull off this stunt consistently. Not yet.

    I'd be very interested to hear what Jane Noel comes up with next. If the members keep plugging away and crafting their idea further, well, the future is limitless. The creative juices are obviously flowing. The talent needs to catch up.


    The Januaries
    The Januaries
    (Foodchain)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Flitting about the lightweight-yet-sophisticated pop universe, the Januaries weave delicate songs, served up by a coquettish sex bomb. Which is, I guess, the only way to do it.

    It's almost like this is a joke, the pieces are so transparent. Not that they're unattractive or anything; the melodies are pretty and the arrangements are spot on. But it's just that. There's too much of a by-the-numbers thing going on.

    The banal lyrics don't help. But even those would be effective (and maybe even appropriate) if the music had a bit more creativity to it. It's fine. Don't get me wrong. But there's nothing new here, no new ideas to explore.

    So in the end you've got a retro band playing stuff we've all heard before. No matter how well it's played (and the Januaries do it well, believe me), this is still traveling in stagnant waters.


    Japonize Elephants
    Japonize Elephants from Zorlock, Land of the Lost
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Among the descriptions in the liners is "Far Eastern Swing". Or, to be a bit more succinct, perhaps an Indian (like the sub-continent) hoedown. The instruments are mostly traditional American (guitar, banjo, flute, violin, etc.), but the sound is anything but.

    I'm pretty sure these folks are making no pretense toward creating "authentic" music of any kind, but the carefree abandon with which this stuff is played is utterly refreshing. Loony, yeah, but not a parody by any means. Merely an astonishing merging of styles which is bound to offend and delight just about anyone.

    Sometimes the songs get a little too cluttered. It's pretty apparent that this was recorded without any overdubs, as it is possible to even detect which singer stood where in relation to the nearest microphone. Lo-tech, providing a most satisfying result.

    Utterly unclassifiable, which is to the good. The live show must be better, and this disc is awfully good. A big wad of fun.


    Le Fete de Cloune-Pirate
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    What more is there to say about a band which can whip from a hoedown to the Hora faster than you can say "Holy seltzer, Batman!" And it's not like the Elephants limit themselves to the canon of the redneck Jew. That's just an example.

    The main point is really wacky songs, accompanied by truly masterful music that hits on Eastern, Middle-Eastern and trailer park influences. Yeah, the lyrics are goofy, but these folks can really wail. And instead of merely refining some sort of musical chaos, the Elephants create their own musical reality. While in our dimension these sounds may sound rather incongruous, in this Bizarro world the Elephants are the epitome of great music.

    Of course, I live in that world all the time, so I'm happy to proclaim the greatness of this band. Way too much fun for such fine music to be lurking about as well. That's really the most impressive part. These songs are meticulously written and arranged, and while it sounds like a manic whirlwind of sound, the underlying structure is completely sound.

    Another extraordinary opus. Probably not for the masses, but definitely for anyone who searches for truly fine music.


    40 Years of Our Family
    (TZME Productions)
    reviewed in issue #232, August 2002

    A couple sentences can't begin to describe the madness here. Think orchestral roots music as interpreted by Kurt Weill. And then it gets weird. Lucky for me, weird is where I generally like to be.


    Melodie Fantastique
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    A traveling carnival of impressive proportions, I've been getting occasional dispatches from the Elephants for years now. The sound has coalesced from a jumbled mishmash into a compellingly-coherent rendition of folk music from all over the world. From bluegrass to gypsy to well beyond, the pieces are eternally engaging. A lot of artists try to blend a thousand and one ideas into their songs. The Elephants succeed gloriously. Bravo!


    Jarboe
    Sacrificial Cake
    (Young God-Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Listed as a "Swans related project", along with M. Gira's disc this album trumpets the arrival of Swans on AT.

    One of the most attractive parts of Swans is Jarboe's ethereal-yet-powerful voice. In general, this album is more introspective and less harsh than Swans, but none of the edge is lost. Jarboe has merely tightened the grips on the subconscious.

    Yes, the hallmarks of solo works are in evidence: some self-indulgent moments, a lack of coherence and a more intimate feel. But the first two are regular Swans characteristics, and the third is a plus.

    More experimental than recent Swans works (along with reworked versions of songs from the last Swans album), this album (along with M. Gira's) brings real hope of a Swans resurgence on Alternative Tentacles.

    See also M. Gira and Swans.


    Suzanne Jarvie
    Spiral Road
    (self-released)
    reviewed 3/9/15

    Our culture celebrates the young and talented. They are fresh, beautiful and impulsive--everything us old folks aren't.

    This is fine for pop stars and artists who like to make things crash, be they writers, musicians, painters or whatever. Young folks like to challenge the old order and create something new. A very few succeed, and our culture is all the better for that.

    But after the crashing generally comes the burning. Folks who appeared transcendental at age 25--quick, name the author of Girl, Interrupted--are unable to translate their gifts into something more stable. P.J. O'Rourke wasn't entirely joking when he titled one of his later collections Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut.

    Suzanne Jarvie has just released her first album. She's a child of the 60s who nursed a musical interest through four kids and a legal career. When two of her children suffered serious illnesses and injuries, she resurrected her interest in music as a coping mechanism.

    The songs on this album delve deeply into the fears and desires that all parents face. We imagine the world for our kids, and when they get even a little sick we can be devastated. Spiral Road is, in part, a reference to an accident Jarvie's then-14-year-old son had falling down a spiral staircase. He went into a long coma before slowly recovering.

    But rather than simply writing an autobiography, Jarvie takes her journey and turns it into a beautiful, universal work of art. While her voice might have been brighter or slightly more supple 20 years ago, there's no way a younger Jarvie could have approached the brilliance of this album.

    Her voice is reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, though her Canadian accent bleeds through in a most endearing manner. Hugh Christopher Brown produced, and he created a sprawling roots orchestra sound to support Jarvie's voice.

    All of the pieces fall together wonderfully. From a strictly musical standpoint, this is one of the loveliest albums I've heard in quite a while. Add in Jarvie's obvious talent with lyrics, and the effect is multiplied. Any success is more than richly deserved.


    Cosmo Jarvis
    Cosmo Jarvis
    (Wall of Sound)
    reviewed in issue #312, November 2009

    Cosmo Jarvis is British. So is his record label. And, yeah, this is pretty much throw-shit-on-the-wall Britpop. The influences rush by faster than prostate cancer survivors at a Sarah Palin rally, but unlike most politicians, Jarvis knows how to pull everything together into a coherent package.

    I suppose keyboards are at the center of the songs, but that's a guess. There's a busking ballad and a brain-throttling hooky monster. And a lot of stuff from all sides of the pop universe, all wrapped up in stellar harmonies. I guess Brits have a shorter attention span than Yanks.

    The sound is shiny, though there are some moments of startling intimacy. Imagine the Streets as a pop singer/songwriter. Oh, and perhaps slightly less jaded.

    A wild ride, one that I'm loathe to get off. I don't have any idea how the masses will react, but I'm sold.


    Jasmine's Bleach
    Polished Noise EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #199, 5/8/00

    Thick and punchy power pop, complete with throaty vocals and nice, fuzzy riffage. Brings to mind the more refined side of the Minneapolis sound, with some additions that might be called modernizing.

    A real attractive sound, though perhaps somewhat faceless. Jasmine's Bleach has some really nice songs here, but they don't leap out off the disc. It's nice pop, and unfortunately there's an awful lot of that going around these days.

    If the guys can find a more unique take on the sound, well, then I'd be real impressed. As it is, this is just another nice pop set. Not a bad thing at all, but nothing special.


    Jasper TX
    In a Cool Monsoon
    (Pumpkin Seeds in the Sand)
    reviewed in issue #299, August 2008

    While this occasionally sounds like a mildly-restrained bit of improvisational chaos, Jasper TX is actually one Dag Rosenqvist. And Dag's one dude I do not want to meet in any alley, dark or not.

    The ideas that wander through these pieces are often brilliant. They're also often deconstructed to the edge of existence. Whether by skewing tempo, slaughtering melody with distortion, swimming toward the ambient or simply moving pieces around, Rosenqvist refuses to play the game in a simple way.

    Thank goodness. I love music that warps and bends in on itself. Easy tunes are nice, but every once in a while it's good to have a substantial meal. And this disc is full of five-course wonders.

    Yes, yes, it's not everyone's cup of tea (or even saucer of hemlock). That's okay. I'll dive right in again and again.


    Javelin Boot
    Fundamentally Sound
    (Pravda)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Simple, roots-tinged alterna-pop, just like you might expect from an Austin band. And as the Texas Instruments and Javelin Boot are perhaps the epitome of this sound, no one should be surprised.

    Now, comparisons to folk like the Connells are obvious, too, and I'm sure the Javelin Boot guys wouldn't be insulted. Sweet choruses with just enough harmony action, the sort of thing that makes spring afternoons so perfect.

    The title of the album is a perfect description of its contents. This is precisely what I expected, no better and no worse. Javelin Boot won't change the world with its music, but perhaps a few people will smile just a little longer for having heard it.

    There are worse fates.


    Jawbox
    Jawbox
    (Tag Recordings-Atlantic)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #9, 10/21/96

    Jawbox faced a tall order with this album: either make a very commercial album, lose its old fans while pleasing the major label hacks or crank out another idiosyncratic post-punk pop masterpiece, make the kids happy and get dropped.

    Maybe that's why this album has been in the works so damned long. Just speculation on my part.

    The results are something of a compromise, and I'm not sure who's going to be happy about it. The tunes are much more straightforward, but you still recognize the sound as Jawbox. An anthemic, moody rocker like the made-for-MTV "Iodine" is followed by a more representative anarchic blister like "His Only Trade". I prefer the latter, even while the suburban punksters are rallying around the former.

    I don't know how much of the whole "You've gotta sell a shitload with this album" mentality leaked through, but I can hear the evidence. Not a bad effort; indeed, if Jawbox could have reversed the timing of its albums for the Atlantic family, it might be on top of the world right now.

    Eclectic and occasionally brilliant. Jawbox could no more put out a shitty record than decide not to tour for three years. I don't think this puppy will sell enough, but I'll take it anyway.  


    Jawbox
    Tar
    Static 7"
    (Dischord/Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    Each band does the other's song called "Static." A really brilliant marketing idea. Imagine if this caught on. Laura Branigan doing the Shadows of Night tune "Gloria" (and vice versa, if any of those folks could be rounded up). Or if Helen Reddy and Samantha Sang traded places on the "Emotion" tunes they released close to each other. Or if you could hoist Tennessee Ernie Ford from the grave to record Genesis' "That's All" (and back again). I think I'll stop while I'm ahead.

    The Jawbox song is much better, by my reckoning, or perhaps I should say the Tar performance is better. Whichever. Who ever thought this up is a fucking genius.

    Now if only My Dying Bride were to write a song called "Tragedy", and Barry and boys decided to give it a whirl...

    The future is boundless for this stuff. Amazing.


    Jaww
    Lifetimebomb EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #210, 1/8/01

    Right on the edge between extreme hardcore and metal. The dull edge on the guitar sound keeps this marginally on the hardcore side, I guess, though in reality it just doesn't make much difference.

    No, what matters is how well it works. Jaww keeps swinging, no matter if it makes contact with its target or not. Most of the time, the boys score a direct hit. But even when they don't, by keeping the sound active they just move on to the next, more satisfying blast.

    Not a bad theory, really, to just keep blasting. Jaww does that well. Better than most. These guys have the attitude and skills to really tear things up. This disc smokes.


    Tommy Jay
    Tommy Jay's Tall Tales of Trauma
    (Orange Entropy)
    reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01

    This would be Tommy Jay and a whole host of friends. Generally minimalist rock, often just a guitar and voice. And even when a semblance of a band backs him up, the sound is very thin.

    Reminds me of a more coherent and much less mystical Roky Erickson. Everything is much more conventional. Somewhere along those 70s byways between BOC and America (I'm not joking about that, either).

    But even so, I think the Erickson reference fits best. The songs all follow a similar style, though with the revolving cast of mates the sound changes almost constantly.

    And that works just fine, as Jay's consistent songwriting (even though he teams up with many of his musical collaborators) keeps him on familiar ground. The big trick is to try new things without falling off the face of the earth. Jay accomplishes this tough task with seeming ease.


    The Jayhawks
    Sound of Lies
    (American)
    reviewed in issue #133, 4/28/97

    Marc Olson has left the building, and so guitarist Gary Louris takes over the singing duties for the Jayhawks. Where Olson seemed somewhat slavishly devoted to sounding like Gram Parsons (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), Louris sounds a bit like a raspy Glen Frey. A little more anonymous sounding, but still respectable.

    And the whole album is that way. Certainly, this is the most raucous and noisy Jayhawks album, but it's also the band's best since Blue Earth. While the American albums have featured such timeless songs as "Blue", a lot of the stuff in between could be generously described as filler. I've been quite hacked at the wild inconsistency in songwriting.

    There's a greater emphasis on pop music (getting awful close to the Beatles at times, "Trouble" being the best example there), but the country rock feel is still in full force. While there really isn't a breakout great song on this album, almost every one is damned good. Yeah, the sound isn't quite as distinctive as it used to be, but if this is a starting point for the remaining members, it does well.

    I was more than skeptical. Quite honestly, Sound of Lies knocks me out. Better than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams. Indeed, I'll be playing this one for a long time.


    The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy
    Glorious & Idiotic
    (ROIR)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    "Cult" doesn't even begin to describe the appeal of Pat Fish and the various friends who have wandered through the Jazz Butcher machine. If you don't know, you can have anything on the menu, as long as it's irony.

    This is recorded live, and there are plenty of fan favorites and a few new songs as well. The live atmosphere shows off the skills of Fish and friends, and it lends a wonderful intimate feel to the songs. The Jazz Butcher was never much for overproduction, but this disc sounds just great.

    As for the prospect of future projects, well, this is the first release in five years. There is a U.S. tour planned, so who knows? Maybe another new project might find itself in the works.

    Die-hards will rush out for anything, of course, though to be honest, this one is worth the cash. A full set of new songs would really be better, but this half-kettle suffices.


    The Jazz Cannon
    Daddy Ride 12"
    (Function 8)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    The second of the F8 releases. I've gotta say, it's so nice getting a big ol' slab of vinyl. The smell of fres vinyl makes me... Okay, let's talk about the music. Like Gadget, the Jazz Cannon is not in any hurry to get anywhere. There's a style being laid down, and it sits hard on the road.

    More of a soulful industrial sound, spoken word delivery and backup singers draped over wah-wah guitar and a seductive beat. Both songs that way, mind you. Maybe more of an old Run-D.M.C. feel. Gettin' on 20 years old, now, with a brand new shine.

    The flip is an instrumental, though with the same characteristics. This is just fun music, stuff that makes the day pass faster. Gets me in one of those moods. And I won't argue with that.


    Jazzhole
    Blackburst
    (Beave Music)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    The big problem I had with acid jazz is that the music tended to lag when the vocals came in. Not so here. Jazzhole mixes hip-hop beats, old school R&B vocal stylings and a number of other sonic references to set its mood.

    And the mood is cool, certainly. But unlike the bombastic "soul" music of the last 15 years, this fare allows the instruments and vocals to mingle and forge a stronger emotional impact.

    And Jazzhole isn't content to wallow in any single sound for too long. Apart from a general mellow tendency, the guys have a wide-ranging ear, incorporating a large number of sounds without making the songs feel cluttered.

    Just well done, basically. This isn't exactly acid jazz, but that's close enough. I haven't heard someone riff through this territory with such confidence and skill in quite some time. Definitely some serious inspiration here.  


    Circle of the Sun
    (Beave Music)
    reviewed in issue #236, December 2002

    Those familiar with Jazzhole's trippy, mellow soul will delight in these new songs. Those who haven't caught the train yet would do well to buy a ticket. Few can make a sound this sophisticated sound so simply delicious.  


    Poet's Walk
    (Beave Music)

    reviewed in issue #276, July 2006

    Not unlike Small Brown Handbag reviewed above in this issue, Jazzhole has been doing pretty much the same thing for some time--and doing it well. This latest trip down Smooth and Funky Way goes down just as easy as all the other discs I've heard from these folks. And once again, I can find no reason to complain about that.


    Je Suis France
    Afrikan Majik
    (Antenna Farm)
    reviewed in issue #284, April 2007

    Prog jam rockers who (sometimes barely) refine their excessive tendencies into something resembling songs. I'm not sure I'd want to see a show, as I have very little patience with the whole jam concept (in my twisted world, recorded improvisations are great, but live ones are tedious), but this disc is interesting.

    As a case in point, take the second song on the album, "Virtual Heck." It opens with a grandiose Krautrock feel, vamps through some even more pompous riffage and then fistfucks into something that sounds like an early Uncle Tupelo song (the closest song I can put it to is "If That's Alright," though that's by no means a perfect match).

    This sort of adventurous songwriting is interesting, though I suppose it ceases to be refreshing when you realize that almost anything might be coming down the pike. What saves these folks is that, by and large, the genre bending and reducto ad absurdum approach to structure serve a greater master. In short, the pieces work.

    It helps to have an appreciation for good old fashioned space music, of course, in addition to familiarity with most of the sounds of the last 30 years (or so). Patience is a virtue. And if you let this album do its work, you just might leave smiling.


    The Jena Campaign
    A Panda for Amanda
    (Nobody's Favorite)
    reviewed in issue #286, June 2007

    Moody pop songs placed in a rootsy setting, with lyrics that pretty much range all over the map of human experience. Not so much mindblowing as free-thinking, these songs do wander though places that most folks generally try to avoid.

    I like that. I also like that, when necessary, these folks put away the nice acoustic instruments and make a hell of a lot of noise. That's a good impulse, and it shows that these folks are as inventive with their music as their lyrics.

    Probably too serious for most people (I'm a big Eleventh Dream Day fan, too, and I still hear about that from some of my friends), the Jena Campaign has a knack for analysis that is most impressive.

    Yes, the songs are logical, but they sound great, too. There's no way to get bored listening to this. Around every corner is a new idea waiting to assault you. That's a very good thing in my book.


    Jenifer Convertible
    Speedracer 7"
    (Puddle)
    reviewed in issue #77, 5/31/95

    Three pop tunes in the post-punk tradition. And "Speedracer" is not the cartoon theme song. The song doesn't seem to have much to do with the show at all.

    Short, pleasant riff works that make me think of summer somewhere other than Florida (where it has been summer ever since I moved here last fall). Nothing complicated, nothing particularly astonishing. Just nice pop music. And that is a real achievement all by itself.


    Jermflux
    Troll 7"
    (227)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    I tossed this on. Soon my stereo was making a noise that sounded vaguely like a car wreck. So I turned it up. Alright!

    One caveat to this glorious display of noise: the production really sucks. I can't hear one instrument clearly, though the vocals aren't completely godawful.

    In this case, however, terrible knob twisting just might have helped add to the wondrous chaos inside. No one can claim that there is old world craftsmanship going on here, but man, does it rock!  


    Ruiner 7"
    (Jethro Skull)
    reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97

    An unholy racket if I've ever heard one. Jermflux cranks out a mass of flailing riffs and generally pain-inflicting music that refuses to sit down for slackers.

    Perhaps the closest I've heard to one of my favorite bands of a few years back, Agony Column. Jermflux has more of a death metal feel (though I think this is more reflective of the lo-fi production job than any real intent), but the general sonic fury of the bands is similar.

    Four tunes, all in somewhat the same vein. A smorgasbord of intensity for all you who haven't bled your eardrums lately.

    Skillful it ain't, but Jermflux knows how to disembowel folks with a mad guitar. Yee-haa!  


    Studio Sessions '97 EP
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97

    Still a mess, though I think that has more to do with the general lack of post-production work than anything else. Hey, Jermflux can make as wild a noise as anyone.

    And that gets proved on every song here. The intro samples are amusing, and they lend a Buzzov*en feel (which I think I mentioned before). See, that's one of them good things.

    I have no idea where these sessions are going to end up, but I'm happy to extoll their virtue right now. For pure pain and suffering, go no further. Jermflux has that down cold.


    Jesse and Noah
    Driven Back
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/21/13

    Yes, another set of Bellamy Brothers. These boys trend more toward the progressive americana of Los Lobos than traditional country, and there's plenty of rock and soul infused into these backroads rambles. I think Jesse and Noah could work a little harder to break from convention (a couple of these songs get awfully close to filler territory), but when it works (as on the title track) it seems that there's very little these boys can't do.


    Jessie and Layla
    Kinetic
    (Second Shimmy)
    reviewed in issue #283, March 2007

    Jessie and Layla (Collins) sing and play in that offhandedly cool way that Liz Phair used to way back when. There aren't any songs about blow jobs or redistribution of various body parts, but the sound is similar (especially to whitechocolatespaceegg, the Phair-est of them all, IMHO). Specifically, lots and lots of sound and very little in the way of space between the lines.

    This sort of heavy-handed production usually makes an album sound dreadfully pretentious, but it works here precisely because the songs are relatively simple and the Collins sisters don't oversell them. The tracks tumble out one after another, kinda like the mint juleps at Churchill Downs on Derby day.

    If none of this is making sense, imagine that Wilson Phillips wrote songs with the slightest bit of bite and then let their producer run wild in a lush, psychedelic landscape. Kramer's final mix probably didn't hurt, either. If you didn't guess, Second Shimmy is something of the reincarnation of Kramer's old Shimmy Disc label. I'm pretty sure someone else owns the old stuff, but when you're releasing stuff like this and Rope, Inc., there's no need to look back in anger. Except, perhaps, at my dingbat literary cliches. Ouch.


    Jester's Crown
    Above the Storm
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    Prog-rock from near Grand Rapids (MI). More keyboards and somewhat catchier than latter-day Rush, these boys really crank out the anthems.

    The playing is intended to make good music, not ito be flashy, and the band deserves credit for that. The mastering came out a little low, though, leavingthe guitars and vocals sometimes stuck behind the keys.

    And the heavy commercial element did grate on me rather heavily. Serious prog-nuts may find the playing and production below the Magna Carta standard. But those who simply like tuneful music that is kinda complicated should groove nicely along.


    Away
    (Triton)
    reviewed in #164, 8/3/98

    Quite a step away from the last thing I heard from this band. While there are some prog elements left, Jester's Crown has opted for a more roots-oriented approach. The songs are still heavy-duty anthems, but the guitars are out front.

    Oh, yeah, some of the lines are definitely in a prog vein, but the overall sound is much more basic rock and roll. Simply a grand version. And this somewhat looser style really works for these guys.

    It's a cool sound, like if Bruce Springsteen listened to a lot of Yes. And now that the keyboards are in the back (where they belong, at least in this band), the rest of the band is able to properly balance things.

    I didn't really like the first thing I heard from these guys. But this album really knocks me out. I can hear the result of a lot of hard work and artistic soul searching. Jester's Crown has sweated its way to a better place. I hope the band is properly rewarded.


    Jestofunk
    The Remixes
    (IRMAmerica)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    A wide variety of remix styles prevail. Jestofunk (near as I can tell, since I haven't heard the originals) works in a fairly commercial house style, and the remixes are generally quite club accessible.

    The MC Turbo sax mix of "I'm Gonna Love You" has a cool sax lick laid over a house groove. The rest of the song is kinda dull, but the sax and the beats work well. This inconsistency within individual remixes is common, and it's troubling.

    If a mix isn't utterly ripping something off ("JB 2000" takes a Disposable Heroes beat track and sample pattern without changing a thing), then it's merely adding a few cliches. Hey, if you can use a sample and make it something new, great. When you simply use someone else's work to power your own stuff, that's when I begin to get testy.

    And the thing is, the stuff doesn't even work that well. Instead of sticking to a good groove, the mixers more often break the songs up with a variety of threadbare beats and bass lines. Tired is a good word.


    Jesus Lizard
    Wheelchair Epidemic 7"
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #14, 5/31/92

    The best Jesus band in the U.S. (with the possible exception of Liquid Jesus) returns with a taste from their new album. Kicks my ass, I'll tell you right away.

    A nice rhythmic grind permeates both sides of this delicious disc. A tastiness beyond belief. If the album can live up to the standard set by this single, it will be a monster.

    Um, to say I like this would be like calling George Bush a dick. You know both to be fact.


    Liar
    (Touch & Go)
    reviewed in issue #23, 10/31/92

    Long-time Chicago crunge gods return, perhaps to hit the big time, as fellow Second City-ites Ministry make a big splash.

    Never mind that the Jesus Lizard has consistently put out music that puts Ministry to shame, or that JL just have a lot more product. This album is just plain fucking incredible.

    Yes, you can dance to it, but these folks play real instruments and blaze a trail for only the brave to follow. While many a pundit has wondered if "singer" David Yow really deserves that title, I say "You do better!" And this isn't the Green Room at the Ramada, either. This is, strangely enough, rock and roll!

    Too loud for alternative, too weird for metal, JL have been shunted to a far corner for way too long. Play these motherfuckers, goddamnit! Like you've heard ten albums all year that are even this good. So there.


    Puss/Oh, the Guilt 7" (split 7" with Nirvana)
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #28, 2/14/93

    You know the Jesus Lizard tune, as it is straight from their latest album. But the Nirvana thing can only be found here (for now).

    Production-wise, it lies somewhere between Bleach and "Sliver". I like it alright, but I must admit I can take only so much self-indulgent noise. And it shares a rhythm with over half of their other tunes, so you'll be sure to recognize it right off.

    As for the Jesus Lizard tune, I like it better, but all of you should have been playing it off Liar long ago. I suppose that's all.


    Lash CD5
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #38, 8/31/93

    Two new and four live tracks are what you get. Well, that and the always amazing Jesus Lizard.

    Saw a review. The guy said he still doesn't get JL. Yeah, and he probably thinks Soundgarden is a progressive band, too.

    There is still no one better at producing killer riffage and stellar (did I really use that word) rhythms. The first new tune sounds like a reworking of the AC/DC style, but totally JL. New track two has a definite DC feel to it.

    This is not your everyday Jesus Lizard. But then, there is no such thing. And if you want to know what you (and I, since they came through same day as the Big Star show) missed on their last tour, dig the last four tracks.

    A new album would not be too much to ask for, I say.


    (Fly) On (the Wall) 7"
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    More new stuff from these folk, who seem intent on flooding the world with their music.

    Which would make it a much better place, I think. This continues the familiar strident rhythms and vocal yelps that have characterized this band for (ever).

    Good? Yes. Great? Well, just because I say so doesn't mean anything. But I will anyway. The press mentioned more to come. I wait in submission.


    Down
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94

    I guess the way to start is by asking a question. Do you know what the Jesus Lizard is? If not, proceed directly to your station's library and find out. You could just play this disc, but I think you need real seasoning.

    Those who answered yes may continue. If you've seen their live show, I should tell you they still haven't managed to translate that experience onto disc. Yet. This is much the same sound as they got on Liar, which is to say clean. Yeah, there's the requisite hollering, but everything is modulated oh-so-nicely.

    In other words, it's the new Jesus Lizard. There are some new songs for you to burn into your head (including an interesting deconstruction of "Low Rider"), but no new ground has been broken. Somehow I don't think that will stop me from loving it.


    The Jesus Lizard EP
    (Jetset)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Following up on Jetset's success with Firewater, Duane Denison and Jim Kimball got their mates in the Jesus Lizard to pop for a EP released by that label. Whether this is an indication of a new permanent home for the band, or yet another one-off I don't know (I didn't ask, to be honest). But anything new from this band is always worth checking out.

    Over the years the band has cleaned up its songwriting and playing. I assume this has something to do with the inevitable increasing professionalism concept, at least applied to the studio. The live shows are as unrestrained and incomprehensible as ever. Good to know that some things never change.

    The five tracks on this album were produced by Andy Gill, John Cale and Jim O'Rourke. My copy doesn't say who did what, but it's not impossible to guess. For the most part, the songs on this EP are very precisely played and produced, with some seriously quiet spots. A natural evolution, surely, but the sparse feel is still somewhat surprising.

    I would put a big wad of cash on the fact that Jim O'Rourke produced the final track, "Needles for Teeth". There's a lot of lo-fi noodling going on, all brought together by some tight rhythm work. The perfect finale for this set. Who knows where the Jesus Lizard will be tomorrow, but this is a pretty good spot for today.


    Bang
    (Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    The requisite disc containing b-sides, demos and unreleased tunes from one of the most influential bands of the last 10 years. Do you know how many albums I hear from bands who really, really, want to be the Jesus Lizard? About 50. Every single year in the 1990s. Perhaps that has abated a bit in the last couple of years, but still, this is definitely a sound that has endured.

    Do I really need to sell this puppy? It's got a bunch of stuff from one of the great rock and roll bands of the decade. A lot of it you might have if you bothered to buy all the 7"s, but there's ample unreleased material here as well.

    Is it worth the cash? Well, if you're a fan of the band it probably is. I mean, it's not like there are many more Jesus Lizard albums to come (I'm sure another live album might be cribbed together, and perhaps some more rarities, though this disc does have 20 tracks--there's no holding back).

    If ever a band slouched toward the apocalypse, it was the Jesus Lizard. Now, all that's left is the shouting. And there's a whale load of that. See also , Firewater, Laughing Hyenas, Mule and Tomahawk.


    Jet Black Crayon
    Mean Streets 7"
    (Function 8)
    reviewed in issue #238, February 2003

    The beats aren't that impressive. There aren't any real hooks to speak of. But Jet Black Crayon has nonetheless crafted a couple of the most impressive electronic hip hop pieces I've heard in quite some time.

    The sound is utterly organic. And my guess is that despite all of the sampled street noise on "Mean Streets," there's a band behind most of the music here. Sure sounds like it to me. Maybe it's a lot of nice studio work, but no matter. These two songs are quite cohesive.

    The slow burn is a great way to write a song, and both tunes here make excellent use of that style. Jet Black Crayon never quite reaches a climax, but it doesn't have to. The songs are complete just as they are. Completely wonderful, that is.


    Jet by Day
    split 7" with The Maginot Line
    (Two Sheds)
    reviewed in issue #247, November 2003

    One shot each from these bands, and each makes the most of the grooves. That's what you like to hear.

    Jet by Day's "Cheap Shots" is a real chunky rockin' raver that reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick. I'm not sure there's any relation to the song title or if I'm just on a hangover from cruising through the Sex, America, Cheap Trick boxed set last week. Anyway, the song is loud and fun, which works for me.

    The Maginot Line's "Theme Song" is a frenetic workout, not unlike what I've heard from the band before. It's got a real nice post-indie rock feel (how's that for mashing yer genres?), and the energy keeps up throughout the whole piece. no flagging whatsoever.

    Again, this is what a seven-inch ought to be: a slab of fun. The two bands here match up well, and they make a nice team here.


    Jhno
    Kwno
    (Delicate Ear)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    The sort of project I'd like to create someday (like when I buckle down and get a music editing program for my computer). Lots of percussion and rhythmic lines dribbling about, with plenty of sequenced tracks flitting about to fill out the space. Wonderfully complicated and perfectly ordered. And as Jhno is someone's personal music, well, it gives me hope.

    Above all the beats (which are intense, but always subdued), a keyboard fleshes out some cool lines as well. Not tracked, but recorded live. Well, as live as you can get. Mellow, but hardly dull.

    The key here for me is the intricate rhythm structure. Just a great use of multi-tracked recording, interspersing many different pieces, creating something of a polyrhythmic effect. My mind is aglow.

    A great use of one person's imagination. The rich subtext in the music invites me to revisit again and again, always finding something new in the mix. More sounds to get lost amongst.


    Jibe
    Got to Be Here
    (Freedom Zone)
    reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00

    So imagine if that acid jazz thing was updated for the new millennium. Instead of jack swing, you'd get a little electronica mixed in with your smooth jams and sampled jazzy riffs. That what Jibe does, and it works.

    Now, you've got to like each of these elements. Which isn't too terribly difficult, as the electronic elements here are more Faithless than Chemical Brothers. In other words, the complimentary ideas simply complement each other.

    I'm not the world's biggest fan of this kinda thing, but I know good stuff when I hear it. Jibe doesn't traffic in middling material. These songs are first rate, and the production is shiny, but lets the soul shine through. Just like it should.

    Quite a set of creative minds and talent. This is a great party album and more. Jibe puts this sound together in a unique and appealing way.


    The Jigsaw Seen
    Bananas Foster
    (Vibro-Phonic)
    reviewed in issue #325, March 2011

    More than ten years ago, the Jigsaw Seen released Zenith, which garnered a best-packaging Grammy nomination. Utterly appropriate for a band that plays such crafted (though hardly mannered) pop.

    Some bands that traffic in this sort of thing seem to have never gotten over the 60s. I really like some of those bands, but the Jigsaw Seen isn't one of them. Rather, these songs use the layering, horns and strings (or horn and string sounds, at least) of that pop heyday and then create utterly modern songs.

    The sound is impressive, largely because it doesn't overshadow the ideas in the music. Really fun stuff, with plenty of asides. You know I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.

    A fun album with a big chunk of substance holding up the middle. A fine return to the world for a band that always had more going on than just about anyone else.


    Jill
    Scary Thoughts 7"
    (Springbox)
    reviewed in issue #79, 6/30/95

    This sounds like Green Day of Lookout days (less metallic and not so inclined to write anthems). Let me rephrase that. I thought this was old Green Day the first time I heard it. Even the wavering harmonies and love-weenie lyrics are dead on.

    Just too much of a trendy sound for me to ride hard. The flip, "Dumbfounded", is a little more original sounding, but Danny (the singer) is going to have to alter his vocal style a lot to lose the comparisons.

    Two nice pop tunes that would have been nice additions to early Green Day albums. But I think Jill should try and find its own arena.


    Jimmie's Chicken Shack
    Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope
    (Rocket/Polygram)
    reviewed in issue #165, 8/17/98

    This band fits nicely into the alternative genre. Basic chord progressions, slightly slap funky, one line choruses, and being silly about all of it. I will say these guys do a lot with a little. The lyrics are poignant especially to the youth. Ah, the youth! Because the licks are simple, they have to be catchy and my head bounces back and forth occasionally with under appreciated teenage girl flair.

    It's basically like a lot of major label releases. If you listen to it enough times, they will ingrain themselves in your head, and you will be able to amaze your friends with the ability to predict what groove and line is coming up next.

    If you want some basic doo-dah alternative music, you could do a lot worse than this. Good for radio listeners when they're tired of listening to the radio. That's all I have to say. Is that enough?

    -- Aaron Worley


    Jimmy Eat World
    Jimmy Eat World
    (Wooden Blue)
    reviewed in issue #78, 6/15/95

    Pounding, anthemic riffola that manages to satisfy from time to time.

    The scattershot attack (the music veers from one punk influence to another, sometimes seemingly in the same measure) leaves a little to be desired. And that's not to say these guys are sloppy. Not at all. The music is polished, if a little harebrained at times.

    Jimmy Eat World is missing that one jewel, the songs (or songs) that make me sit up and take notice. It's not often that a band tries to sound like the Replacements and Bad Religion on the same disc, much less the same song. But that heavy reverence for the worthy isn't enough. Jimmy Eat World needs a little more time to develop.


    split 7" with Mineral and Sense Field
    (Crank!)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Mineral kicks this fine set off with an astonishing cover of the well-worn torch song "Crazy". If you think this song has already been interpreted to its full extent, you simply must hear this rendition. The finely-honed guitar lead (which is nothing more than barely-controlled distortion) sets the tone, and the rest follows. A real stunner.

    Jimmy Eat World impresses, as always, with "Secret Crush". The sound is a bit messed up because the compression necessary to fit this song and the Sense Field tune on the same side, but the song itself is a great emo raveup. Highest quality.

    And thus Sense Field brings up the rear with "Every Reason", one of its better efforts. The excessive punch that is often imposed upon the band's songs is toned down just enough (though it could be that compression thing, again) to let the song breathe.

    Beg, borrow or steal to get this slab of joy. Some of the best emo talent around with three great songs. Where to go wrong?


    Jimmy Eat World
    (Dreamworks/Universal)
    reviewed in issue #218, 6/25/01

    Emo hits the big time. Well, Jimmy Eat World isn't the first emo band to sign with a major (particularly if you count Jawbox, though I'm not sure that's quite fair), but still. I think these boys have the potential to break out.

    Certainly, they're put together an album that will turn heads. This is emo pop, strident riffage combined with rough hooks. The kinda thing the big boys can work with, you know? And yet, the sound remains surprisingly true.

    Yes, the bass is emphasized a bit too much. This is a major label album, after all. But the songs are still a bit ragged. Certainly, a lot of them are rather long--many get close to or surpass five minutes in length. Obviously, Dreamworks plans to play the "cool alternative" card here.

    Could work, too. Every song has a golden hook, and Jimmy Eat World simply won't get stuck in a rut. A really varied and pretty album. Much better than yer standard major label release. Superior, even, to most releases, period. I think the boys may just have struck a perfect balance here.


    jimmyjack
    jimmyjack
    (Stereophonic Sound Foundation)
    reviewed in issue #209, 12/11/00

    Here's a true oddity: jimmyjack has a female drummer. The two guys play bass and guitar. Well, and drums whenever "Lady K" gets on the B3 organ. I have the feeling this works kinda like Trans Am live.

    And that's not a horrible reference. jimmyjack likes to mix up its sounds. Everything from raucous country to Blondie slapstick disco to blistering uptempo fuzz rock. And a whole lot more.

    Basically, each song has a groove. These grooves do not match up from song to song, but on the whole it's possible (if you stretch) to puzzle out something of a band "concept." If you really want to think about it that much.

    It works either way. jimmyjack can be appreciated viscerally and intellectually. Not many bands can appeal to so many senses at one time. This trio as they say, has it going on. Few could have built such a wonderful joy ride.


    Jindra
    Of Wreckage and Therapy
    (Jindra Estate)
    reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99

    Inspired by both Ann Trondson's film Automotive and by a friend's car accident, Jindra creates rhythm loops consisting of various sorts of noise and then lays some guitar and other sounds on top.

    The crash noises permeate the first part of the disc (it is separated in the listing, as if it were an old-style album), and then the healing begins. The songs explore the depths of shock more than pain on the first part, and on the second they deal more with the everyday tedium of recovery than of some monumental task.

    Seductive, really. I've never seen Trondson's film, but this disc did take me back to the movie Crash and how the characters got off on the violence--and the aftermath--of car wrecks. There is something sexy to smoking metal and shattered glass. These pieces explore that strange world.

    The art lies not just in the concept but the execution. This is an immaculately crafted album. Each piece expresses a coherent thought, utilizing a wide array of sounds and expounding upon a number of ideas. There is so much room here for rumination, I can hardly begin. Getting lost is just the beginning of the fun.


    3 song demo
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #212, 2/19/01

    Just what the title sez: Three new songs from Jindra. This set finds Jindra in a contemplative mood, the songs basically a voice and guitar.

    Almost coffeehouse crooning, really. The singing is really stylized, almost a parody of rather expressive art singers. After a bit, though, the interplay between the guitar and the vocals becomes clearer. There's a playful quality, even as the lyrics take somewhat darker paths.

    Something of an acquired taste. The songs don't have a lot of musical structure, but are mostly free-form meanderings. Sort of a poetic feel to everything. Can you dig it? That's the real question, and I've gotta say I'm on the fence here. My mind appreciates this a lot more than my heart.


    Guitar + Voice: Volume One
    (Jindra Estate)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    Um, just what the title says. This is Jindra and his guitar, passing on a few musings to the people. Just that simple, really.

    His playing is better than his singing, though the stream-of-consciousness lyrics do have echoes outside of their immediate impact. Jindra emotes as much as sings, but lest you think that sounds frightening (or simply annoying), let me be quick to reassure: It works.

    With the spotlight turned so intensely on one person and one instrument, the songs really have to work. Mostly, Jindra's songs don't wallow in self-indulgence. Rather, they turn the spotlight back on the listener.

    Still and all, you've got to be prepared for a truly intimate experience. This is a window on the brain of one person, and a rather large one at that. I got uncomfortable at times, but that sort of disquieting experience can be most illuminating.


    Joe 4
    Njegov Sin
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #341, October 2012

    Determined to get as close to the old-school Touch and Go ethos as possible, Joe 4 got Steve Albini to record their album. How'd that turn out? Here's what the band sez: "Steve Albini played Scrabble on Facebook almost the entire time we were recording. We don't know if he remembers what our album sounds like."

    Maybe. Maybe not. In the end, these Croatian boys do a fine Jesus Lizard impression. There's not a lot of progression from the EP I reviewed a couple months ago, but there are more songs. They're noisy, loud and they churn like hell. I adore these guys.

    Yes, I know. There's no new ground being broken here, this has all been done before--blah, blah, blah. There aren't many bands who sound like this these days, and I love this sound. Oh, and they absolutely kill these songs.

    Deadly, really. The insistent rhythms and generally abusive riffage warm my heart like nothing has in ages. I bet Albini did mostly play Scrabble on Facebook. Doesn't matter. This is a work of utterly no subtlety. Fucking brilliant, too.


    Anders Johansson, Jens Johansson
    and Allan Holdsworth

    Heavy Machinery
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #146, 10/27/97

    The Johansson brothers wrote and played most of the music, with avant-garde guitar troubadour Allan Holdsworth adding more than his two cents worth. Not quite prog rock, not quite jazz and certainly not fusion, this project has captured precisely why it's a good idea to let talented people do their thing and ask questions later.

    I've often been a critic of technical brilliance achieved at the expense of emotion. That's not a problem here. Jens and Holdsworth trade off pyrotechnic solos, but always within the speed and precision is an artists ear for expression. Anders lays down a fine rhythmic base (and helps out with many of the peripherals as well), and the rest seems to have fallen into place.

    This is very much an assembled-in-the-studio album, and form time to time the sound gets a bit too artificial-sounding for my tastes. But I'm willing to accept some more of that if it brings me the exquisite sounds and ideas contained here.

    This is really the sort of album I generally don't like. Guys who like to show off their skills, tossing virtuoso performances one after the other and calling it a song. But the trio has gone beyond the call of duty, crafting a coherent and exciting album. I'm always happy to be surprised like this.


    Jens Johansson
    Fission
    (Shrapnel)
    reviewed in issue #157, 4/20/98

    As opposed to fusion, obviously. And Johansson doesn't really bother to mess with jazz constructs or conventions. This is a fairly spacey prog record, though less aggravating than a keyboard-led such project might seem. Johansson relies extensively on his backing band (his brother Anders on drums and Shawn Lane and Mike Stern on guitars) and merely guides them through his complicated compositions.

    Complicated? Yeah. Johansson plays with meter and much more. You can read the liners if you really want to try and understand what a "basic 14/16" is (well, it's something like 7/8, of course, the same way 6/8 is something like 3/4). I find that stuff pretty damned fascinating myself, and the notes helped me understand the mathematical underpinnings to this dense and unusual music.

    On the surface, this sounds like any basic prog project. But a little scrutiny of the percussion and beat lines yields a much different picture. Lots of vaguely-connected lines, all held together by unusual (for rock music, anyway) time signatures. Yeah, the performances are more technical than emotional, but the mathematical ideas are so involved I'm willing to forgive, just this once.

    Definitely one of those "musician's album for musicians". Johansson isn't afraid to express odd ideas, and that fearlessness has brought forth a truly intriguing album.


    John's Black Dirt
    Perpetual Optimism Is a Force Multiplier
    (Grass)
    reviewed in issue #65, 10/31/94

    When trying to tame the power of raw noise into something resembling pop music, a band has to be careful. Either losing the pureness of the sonic violence or simply failing to convert said attack into anything coherent leaves a disc full of nothing.

    John's Black Dirt skirts right on the edge of chaos, trying to rein things into a recognizable form. Sometimes it works, and the effect is stunning. Other times, the band is less successful, the pieces scattered from the core.

    I've said the same thing about bands like Engine Kid. I think there is a real mutant genius at work. And where there is genius, there is also extravagance and an inability to accept outside opinion. Keep an eye on this outfit. All the pieces may yet come together, as they did occasionally on this disc. Not to be airily dismissed.


    Johnboy
    Pistolswing
    (Trance Syndicate)
    reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93

    Not just another Austin band. Well, since that scene capitulated a few years ago (remember Dangerous Toys? I think they were from there), I guess it doesn't matter.

    Most of the time, sour chords are meted out over a steaming plate of tight rhythm. The vocals are shouted and screeched. In other words, I was absolutely awestruck.

    It is the bass and drum work here that just kicks my ass. As long as you keep those two tight, the rest will fall into place, no matter how bizarre. And this isn't as bizarre as it could be. It just jams. If I have to make comparisons (and it sometimes helps), they sound like a discordant Jesus Lizard. Which is pretty damn fine.

    A good rule of thumb is to take any record you get from Trance Syndicate, turn the volume up as far as you dare, lie down on the couch and just take it. If you survive the experience, you have my admiration.


    Claim Dedications
    (Trance Syndicate-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94

    Album #2, and this one is filled just as high with crunchy rhythms, pounding bass and squealing guitar. Often enough, the rhythm section seems to be at war, adding to the chaos of the moment.

    In fact, there is more than a latent trace of funk here. It's just hidden underneath all that noise, like the vocals. And to be honest, the vocals just aren't that integral to the overall Johnboy sound.

    In all, nine songs of controlled chaos. Highly combustible and ready to spurt. This is every bit as fine as their debut, and perhaps just a smidge better. Things have tightened up in the slightest way, leaving a little more of the soft underbelly exposed. Just the way it should be.


    Johnny Bravo
    Then Again, Maybe I Won't
    (Arista)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #4, 5/27/96

    The usual white-boy power trio, with massive references to such influences as Urge Overkill and Husker Du. More UO, I guess, but there's an odd Minneapolis vibe running through some of the tunes.

    As you may have guessed, Johnny Bravo is the name of the band, which consists of the Lancourt brothers on the bass and guitar (and both sing), and Matt Fass on drums. The knobs were twisted by Ric Ocasek, who is proving to be a decent facilitator of live-sounding albums. The production really punches up the fairly mundane songs and manages to funnel some serious energy through the sound.

    Still, there's not much else here to really recommend. Nothing's dreadful, mind you, but the songs could have been written by a ten-year-old in his sleep. Standard progressions, banal lyrics. Yeah, it sounds great, but it's all filler.

    Nothing to offend the elders, which should really tick off the kids. Johnny Bravo has to take some chances if it wants to get somewhere.


    Johnny Bronco
    Blind Ambition
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01

    If you can imagine what Motley Crue ought to sound like these days if they had any talent left, well ...

    There are plenty of glam metal references, but Johnny Bronco also drops in some fine industrial and experimental pop touches, all wrapped up in a big ol' 'tude.

    Still, the guys have a penchant for slowing things down. Not in a "Home Sweet Home" way, but more Styx-like, with those crinkly guitars and keyboards. In fact, the entire sound is most processed. And it works like that. doesn't go down easy, but it sure is tasty nonetheless.

    You want me to figure out a market for this stuff? I dunno. It's fun, and the music is nicely complex at times. You gotta be able to turn off yer brain, and yet still leave it nearby. Perhaps the idea is to simply lean back and let the music take over. Sounds like a plan to me.


    Johnny Headband
    Who Cooks for You
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #337, May 2012

    Electric Six's Keith Thompson (aka Smorgasbord) and his brother Chad make up Johnny Headband. The result is something that is a lot like E6, except not.

    There are the requisite references from the 70s, 80s and today--though I don't think anyone will be calling this "lite" anything. Rather, these songs combine sly grooves with a wide array of accompaniments. The result is an amazingly light and tasty confection.

    Light as in breezy. There's plenty of depth here, but the Thompson boys don't forget how to entertain. Each song is chock full of hooks, some tender and some quite sharp.

    Most importantly, the production stays out of the way. The modest loopiness of the arrangements is endearing, and the incessant good cheer of the songs brings plenty of smiles. The perfect pick-me-up.


    Johnny Socko
    Full Trucker Effect
    (Asian Man)
    reviewed in issue #170, 10/26/98

    This purports to be a reworked soundtrack for an underappreciated movie. It's not, of course, but all the little "testimonials" and spoken pieces are pretty funny, even if they crib a bit too much from Pulp Fiction ("Tobaccy in Paree", etc.). Johnny Socko is a ska punk band from Indianapolis. Which begins to explain everything...

    Amusing, but generic. Johnny Socko has all the ska basic down, but doesn't really do anything with them. The performances are fair, but not outstanding. I know, this is really punk, but the band has to work a bit more. I don't mind out-of-tune horns and vocals which can't hold a note for even a split second, but I want some daring, some derring-do even.

    Not here. This is just an average ska band from the midwest. Hey, I can relate. But I need more. Johnny Socko doesn't have it. At least, not here.

    Just yer average ska punk disc, with a humorous gimmick attached. Decent, but nothing to get excited about.


    Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts
    7" EP
    (Sike Records)
    reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97

    A good dose of ska-pop (kinda like the Specials and Madness all those years ago). The production is awful thin, with keyboards that are barely recognizable as such, but the songs are tight and catchy, overcoming any serious problems.

    It's nice to hear ska without bombast. The trend during this "revival" period has been to beef up the guitar sound (a la Bosstones) or simply add all sorts of cheesy elements (the whole skadonna approach). Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts loop through four cool songs, none getting too out of hand, but each with individual charms.

    Now, this isn't pure ska. The emphasis is still on pop, but pop with a skankin' beat and plenty of fat horns. The songs evolve in a natural, easy-going manner, never making demands they can't live up to. A good trick.

    I don't know if this sound will ever really capture the imagination of the average teenager, but I like it a lot. Good fun.


    Johnny Wishbone
    Make It Nice
    (Six Second Blackbelt)
    reviewed in issue #211, 1/29/01

    Reminds a lot of a much heavier Urban Dance Squad. You've got your stoner rock riffage, scratches and sing-songy vocals. Pretty catchy much of the time. Which is probably the best way to judge this.

    Because it's not intended to be the next great musical statement. This is fun music, stuff that's not terribly big on delivering messages. You know, the more I listen, the more I hear a good amount of Living Colour (though, once again, much heavier--this is the new millennium, after all).

    Still and all, just an album full of smile-making party jams. For those fearful of the guitar excess, I will note that Johnny Wishbone does pull back often enough for a more conventional faux-funk attack. Though the big guitars almost always make their presence known.

    Kinda the more laid-back approach to the rap-rock fusion. Johnny Wishbone won't change the world, but it should make a few people move. Nothing wrong with that.


    John Rifle
    Fracas Nurture
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #230, June 2002

    Most of the lyrical content is comprised of samples and found sound. The music varies widely but generally isn't much more than accompaniment for the assembled sounds.

    There are a few easy jokes, but most of the stuff here is better-described as acid-laced cultural commentary. Obscenity-laden, replete with self-references, this album burns a swath of destruction through today's society.

    But is it good? I don't know. This album is arresting and often mesmerizing. Sometimes I do wish the comment had a bit more of a satiric or ironic quality to it. General meanness is all fine and good, but it oughta lead somewhere.

    That would be my only hangup here, I guess. But a lack of overall cohesion isn't enough to make me slag John Rifle too much. There are too many dead-on observations to dismiss this as mere scattershot attack. Pretty damned cool.


    Evan Johns and the H-Bombs
    Rollin' Through the Night
    (Alternative Tentacles)
    reviewed in issue #32, 4/15/93

    After ten years, those good folks at AT have decided to unleash this beast upon the CD-buying public.

    When the right Rev. Horton Heat cruised out of Dallas (via Seattle and SubPop) a couple of years ago, everyone seemed to have forgotten that Evan and the H-Bombs are still cruising the country, cranking out raucous rockabilly tunes and generally tearing things up.

    This album is testament to his talent and the future that is now. If you haven't seen him live, go. He'll be near your town soon (he played the Grand Emporium here three or four times last year). If you don't give this a listen, you are a musical deadbeat.

    See also Eugene Chadbourne and Evan S. Johns.


    Jimmy Johnson
    Every Road Ends Somewhere
    (Ruf-Paltinum)
    reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99

    It's often said that the blues has many colors. And Johnson prefers the full-produced version. His uptempo pieces are almost disco, and his slow numbers move along with all the subtlety of a heavy metal power ballad (though the guitar work is better). I just don't like this excess, myself.

    The way I hear it, this surfeit of sound draws too much away from the songs themselves. Or, to put it another way, anyone could have recorded this album. There's no room for the great playing and soulful singing to really shine.

    Which is to say that Johnson has a classic high blues voice, with the requisite power and growls. His guitar playing, too, is rather reminiscent of B.B. King. And maybe that's what's really bugging me. B.B.'s been overproduced for more than 30 years, and I'm afraid he's brought a few folks with him on that train.

    Alright as a generic blues album, but there could have been so much more. Somewhere in all the mess is Jimmy Johnson and his songs. Just wish I could have heard them more clearly.


    Mike Johnson
    Year of Mondays
    (Tag-Atlantic)
    reviewed in Money Whore issue #5, 6/10/96

    Perhaps best known for his wandering through the thing that is (was?) Dinosaur Jr., Mike Johnson uses all his creds to push through a record deal. And even manages to come up with an interesting one.

    His voice is far too low to be singing this morose, pseudo-country grunge stuff (think of recent Neil Young), but after a while it stops sounding like it was recorded at the wrong speed. And once you get used to the whole thing, you notice that the songs are meticulously crafted pop gems, and the styles are merely ways to frame the painting (ick; artsy writing).

    Well, it's not like this is ass-kicking music. Johnson is as comfortable with slow tempos and soft sounds as he is kicking out the jams. And actually, his songwriting style is much better suited to the mellow stuff, which makes up more than half the disc.

    I wasn't expecting something this good, though I haven't paid any attention to Dino Jr. since Mascis took his freak show to Warners. A real nice set. A little weird for the kiddies, but fuckit. When you have the chance, why not choose quality?


    Robert Johnson and the Browns
    Robert Johnson and the Browns EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #161, 6/15/98

    Robert Johnson and Todd Rittman are two guys. They are also this band. The play together as two one-man bands attacking each other. Rittman is a member of U.S. Maple and The Mercury Players. Johnson (not related to THE Robert Johnson, if you get my drift) plays with Hundred Pieces and Slowworm. Is any of this making sense now?

    Basically, Rittman bangs out a semi-coherent beat and plays bass and guitar while Johnson plays bass and guitar and assorted percussion elements. The music is at least as weird as the stuff these guys play with their regular acts (and if you recognize any of the names, you know how fun that stuff can get), and probably much more out there.

    Introspective, really, as Rittman and Johnson don't really try to shred or anything. This is all about cool noises and odd musical notions. A guy named Jim O'Rourke had a hand in this somewhere. Are you getting the picture now?

    If not, go home. Stay away and don't even bother with this. While not the posterchild for esoteric musical greatness, Robert Johnson and the Browns (such as it is) cranks out some nifty tuneage. Strange, but definitely nifty.


    Johny Vegas
    Forest Hill Drive
    (Leprechaun)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    Rollicking roots rock. Rock with roots in 60s pop and early 70s country rock, that is. You know, the glossy side of the garage sound. The sorta sound which I can rarely resist.

    And this is no different. The songs are tightly written with just enough wiggle room. At times the music, particularly, sounds a bit rote. But that passes quickly enough.

    My only real problem is with the production, which leaves the sound a bit flat. I'm not asking for shiny, but certainly more character in the guitar sound than what is here. Sometimes the songs sound two-dimensional, if that makes sense.

    But the songs themselves are pretty cool, just laid back enough for some comfy listening. Obviously, these guys are still working out a few kinks, but I'm more than happy to hear the progress.


    Jojeto
    Chinatown
    EP (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/28/13

    Jojeto hews to a fine elektrorock noise line when it really starts cooking. But a lot of these songs have a bit too much lead-in. I love the way these guys sound when everything comes together. I suppose I'm just wishing for more togetherness or something. Often brilliant.


    Jolly Mon
    Nobody Knows Who You Are
    (Elemental)
    reviewed in issue #92, 11/20/95

    There are ways to sequence an album properly. This disc didn't follow any of them. No song flows smoothly into the next, and as Jolly Mon refuses to play the same style from one song to the next, what you get are jarring inconsistencies.

    I'm not sure where to start in describing this band, except that it has some real Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd sorta moments, with plenty of white-boy funk (read: Jane's Addiction) and grunge thrown in. Usually all at once or not at all. This stuff is weird.

    And at times I get an early King Missile groove thing going on. And how I would have described that band's Shimmy Disc output is beyond me as well. I might as well give up while I'm ahead.

    As a whole, this just doesn't appeal to me. I can't say why, except that it combines a lot of stuff I don't like into sounds that I still don't like. Jolly Mon sounds damned pretentious, and the music just doesn't live up to that attitude.


    Jolly Roger
    Jolly Roger
    (demo)
    reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92

    Here's some sugar for you. Kinda wandering on the heavy side of the glam movement of the last ten years, with Vince Neil on singing on steroids (you figure it out). Fun to listen to, but they try a little hard to please and craft their songs a little much.

    A nice commercial-edged demo. If these guys would relax just a little and let their hair down, then things would flow better. Not bad as is, though.


    Jon Cougar Concentration Camp
    Melon
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98

    Perhaps the best band name ever. I dunno. When I first heard of these guys a couple years back, I raved about the name for ages. Now I can finally hear some tunes. And they're not bad, either.

    Up-the-gut punk, something of a sparser sound than Four Letter Word, but in the same basic style. Fast and furious, with just a few of those left coast oozin' ahs. To compare this sound to candy would be a fine idea. I think I'll do that.

    Way too fun to turn off. The lines are delivered deadpan, but hell, how can you not like a song called "My Favorite Show Is 90210"? Silly and energetic. Good qualities, indeed.

    It's amazing what some folks can do with two (yes, sometimes two) chords. A complete riot of sound, with a side of amusement. The band name is only the beginning.


    So Much for Unity 7"
    (BYO)
    reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99

    A couple slashes from one of my fave nicely-gritty pop-punk outfits. Tuneful enough to get the foot tappin', enough insight in the lyrics to make a point.

    And like, say, Zeke, JCCC knows how to add the requisite bite into the pop sound. The guitars grab, the riffs hack and bruise. No lightweights, these boys. Power all the way.

    I just get more and more impressed with everything I hear from these guys. Just two more reasons to rush out and buy everything of theirs I can find.


    Jacob Jones
    Good Timin' in Waynetown
    (Electric Western)
    reviewed in issue #344, 1/28/13

    Not exactly blues or americana or rockabilly or whatever. Good time music sounds about right, though. Jones pushes the pedal down when he needs to, but just enough to keep these songs peppy and bright. And when he takes things down a notch, the songs acquire a dingy depth. Some horns, some piano, some hootin', some hollerin--good times, indeed.


    Jones Crusher
    Jones Crusher
    (Cold Front)
    reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99

    Long EP or short album? Ten songs, so I'll go with short album. High energy melodic punk pop which has more than a few glam tendencies. Particularly in the vocals.

    Just keeps crankin' along, a new song every two-and-a-half minutes or so. Covers of Buzzcocks and Wall of Voodoo songs, tunes you know by heart. All in a similar spirit. Very tight, without getting terribly slick.

    The production left the sound fairly tinny (which may be where I'm picking up a lot of the glam vibes, as my record player tends to emphasize the treble, and all my Sweet and Slade is slab-bound), but I like it. If you want more bass, change it yourself.

    Very simplistic, plenty of fun. No, we're not talking about grand statements about the future of humanity or anything. Just some punk tunes, stuff that flows in one ear and out the other. Perhaps leaving the barest traces of a smile.


    The Jones Street Boys
    Overcome
    (Smith Street)
    reviewed in issue #292, December 2007

    The obligatory New York City country album. Seems like I've got one of those every couple of months or so. Guess there must be a decent scene, eh?

    Jon Langford guests here, which is just the first tip-off that this might, indeed, be a pretty solid effort. And, indeed, solid is the word. These songs rollick and roll in a most workmanlike fashion. It's not hard to hear where they're going. But the playing and, particularly, the singing raise the songs to another level.

    Produced with a strong--but not strict--hand, there are no audio pyrotechnics, just a full mix and plenty of organ in the deep holes. A bit more country than yer average americana effort (more Blue Earth than Tomorrow the Green Grass, if you'd like a Jayhawks reference), but good-naturedly so. There's no "we're so pure" moment. Just a hint of bluegrass and plenty of backroads flavor.

    Lots of folks have taken very good care of this album. It's a finely-cut gem, alternately gentle and raucous. Just about everything an album should be.


    The Jongleurs
    The Jongleurs
    (NCM East Records)
    reviewed in issue #140, 8/4/97

    Remember when They Might Be Giants performed with a tape deck? Remember that goofy, simple sound that was a lot more interesting than the full-on nerd rock procreated by that act today? Well, the Jongleurs don't sound exactly like that (think more of a sparse jazz sound, I guess), but the feel is similar.

    This is one of those bands that likes to improvise and change things up a lot, which tends to make the studio recordings sound somewhat stilted. The Jongleurs has managed to avoid some of those problems with rather creative arrangements, but as amusing as the surrounding music is, the lyrics are rarely better than novelty status.

    The emphasis is on the music, which is good because that part actually works. Not exactly jazz or rock or even something in-between, the Jongleurs have found an odd little musical niche that I've never quite heard before. Except to say that this sounds a lot like TMBG without sounding like TMBG. I'm sure that makes a ton of sense.

    I'd encourage these folks to stick with the music and give up on trying to fuse vocals to it. If that were to happen, well, I might really dig this.


    Jowls
    Cursed EP/10"
    (Tiny Engines)
    reviewed in issue #343, December 2012

    I'm starting to think this is a trend. Back when I started A&A, there were dozens (if not hundreds) of bands that played a certain style of lovely raucous, noisy and intricate post-punk. Touch and Go was the center of this universe, of course, and bands like the Jesus Lizard and June of 44 epitomized the sound. Then they all went away.

    But I've been hearing more and more of it in the past couple of years, and Jowls is one of best "modern" bands blasting its way through this sound. The vocals are absolutely shredded, the guitars operate as much on feedback as chords and the rhythm section resembles a perpetual motion machine. Just as it should be.

    These boys are from Grand Rapids, so they even fit the old style geographically. This stuff is almost perfect. I'm thinking next time there ought to be a full-length, right?


    Joykiller
    The Joykiller
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95

    Fronted by Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L, ya' know), the Joykiller romps through territory familiar to old fans. Mixing the raw power of early T.S.O.L. with that hard-to-shake tendency to write the occasional anthem, Grisham and co. have managed to crank out a highly-polished piece of punk that should take over MTV in, say, five minutes.

    Personally, I prefer the ravers, but it's tracks like "Seventeen" that will get the kiddies lighting their lighters at the shows. Okay, so maybe scene stalwarts might be somewhat appalled (not if you heard that last T.S.O.L. record, though), but this is a fine disc by any standard, and it also has a huge commercial potential. That's a nice upside.

    A little trip down memory lane with a voice from the past who has managed to put out a record that sounds great today. Nothing to complain about, certainly.


    Static
    (Epitaph)
    reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96

    Jack Grisham and pals arrive with the second Joykiller in a year. Now with full-time piano-basher Ronnie King added to the bunch.

    I know, I know, piano ain't punk, but it sure works here. While heavier and faster than even early TSOL, the Joykiller is at heart a rock and roll band. And while the guitar may be the fashion-plate instrument, the piano is at the heart of most of the all-time greatest rock music. Note that I'm not talking about keyboards.

    Enough on that almost irrelevant tangent. Fourteen more cool tracks, and the piano does fill out the sound nicely, without compromising even a shred of integrity. In fact, I like this even better than the first one.

    Granted, we're talking about fast and dirty rawk, but fuckit. Cheap and easy can be satisfying, too. Particularly when it sounds like this. Fun a plenty, and good music besides. Summer jams, indeed.


    Simon Joyner
    The Christine EP
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #163, 7/20/98

    Here's a guy from the midwest (more specifically, Nebraska) who sings dreary songs, sometimes by himself and sometimes with a few friends. Sound like a familiar formula?

    Sure, sure, but like the Ativin album (though a different sound), this rapidly blossoming field of sparsely produced vaguely folk-style artists is an idea I can easily embrace. Highly emotional fare which bares all, leaving the listener shattered at the conclusion. I mean, can you find something wrong with that?

    I didn't think so. Joyner's playing is about as shaky as his singing, but what matters is the feeling the song conveys. The Secretly Canadian catalog (a truly impressive list) enclosed with the liners calls Joyner's stuff "the saddest and most inspiring records we've ever heard." I wouldn't go quite to that extreme, but nonetheless that description is on the right track.

    I just got the new Patty Griffin album, and she torched herself with a full band. Her biggest attribute is her astonishingly expressive voice, a voice which rang true when sung over an acoustic guitar. Her new full-on electric band muted that passion. Joyner (probably more out of necessity than anything else, but still) doesn't make that mistake. This is all him. Period. And that's definitely more than enough.


    Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between 2xCD
    (Sing, Eunuchs!)
    reviewed in issue #186, 9/28/98

    I recently reviewed Joyner's release on Secretly Canadian ("Christine" repeats from that EP of the same name). He's got a way with sparsely-arranged pop songs, a way of cutting through any pretension and laying emotions bare.

    Not by howling, but simply saying. Joyner sings his songs softly, lilting his poetic lyrics over a basic musical base of guitar, bass, drums and organ. Sometimes more, but never anything overpowering. Just the basic facts. Basically amazing.

    Two discs may not have been necessary (the total of both times in at less than 90 minutes), but I'm happy to have every scrap. Joyner's evocative and wryly anguished voice are amazing to behold. I wouldn't know which songs to omit and cut this down to a single disc.

    I am overcome once again. Joyner's simple approach to the most basic of music forms leaves a many-splendored trail. Masterful and fully satisfying. A must for fans of souls laid bare.


    The Lousy Dance
    (Truckstop/Atavistic)
    reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99

    Joyner has attracted a plethora of friends to fill out the sound on this disc. But even a full symphonic recording couldn't drown out the plaintive wails which characterize Joyner's songs. Note that I didn't say pathetic. Not at all. These are songs about losers and fools, has-beens and never-will-bes. You know, songs about you and me.

    Which isn't to say that we're all a bunch of failures. Joyner's brilliance is shown in how he recognizes how our shortcomings make us more human. Indeed, perfection is boring. Joyner takes the time to celebrate our foibles.

    And if the astonishing lyrics weren't enough, the fumbling, but essentially surefooted, musical compositions are equal to the task. There is a grandness in the jangly, soulful melodies, a feeling of comfort amongst the chaos. The pieces are deceptively simple; there is a life's worth of experience behind every sparse note.

    This is an album to celebrate, not one to review. Joyner is one of a rare breed, a singer-songwriter who sings songs that really matter. Simple? Simply brilliant.


    Out Into the Snow
    (Team Love)
    reviewed in issue #310, September 2009

    It's been exactly ten years since I last received a Simon Joyner album. This one is his twelfth, and it's only slightly more accomplished than The Lousy Dance. There are two ways to look at this. The first is that Joyner has been recording the same thing over and over again. The second is that Joyner knows exactly where he wants to be, and he simply stays in pocket.

    I like #2, myself. Joyner's brand of minimalist roots music will never be mistaken for its more sophisticated cousin, americana. Joyner comes out of an older indie tradition, and he simply isn't taken in by all manner of bells and whistles. That and his voice is limited to an octave, max.

    But that spare expression serves these songs well. The band is expanded--a bit--but the arrangements are as tasteful as ever. Joyner's songs have always cut to the quick, and that's most effective when the sound is unfettered by clutter.

    It's been ten years, and that's ten years too long. There aren't many people out there doing what Joyner does, and there aren't any who do it better. Quite the reunion for me.


    Joyride
    Another Month of Mondays
    (Doctor Dream)
    reviewed in issue #47, 1/31/94

    Straightforward rock n' roll with some real nice hooks. The kind of stuff you heard from today's aging stars twenty years ago.

    Well, it doesn't sound dated or anything, but it sure is catchy and is sure to make you a happy person. I know, you ask how Doctor Dream manages to dig up all these great bar bands, from the Cadillac Tramps and Dash Rip Rock to folk like this.

    They're damned good at what they do, that why. And so is Joyride. Oh, I suppose I should mention that a couple of these guys used to be in the Adolescents, though this output certainly supersedes the need to discuss the past.

    Smiles all around. Another round, bartender.


    Jozlin Bones
    Jozlin Bones EP
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97

    Taking the riffola of Circus of Power and tossing that in the machine along with quite a few Mother Love Bone tendencies, Jozlin Bones has a sound that would have really turned heads a couple years back.

    This is the older of two releases the band sent me (the other will be reviewed in the next issue), but even so, I like the way these folks combine various elements of power metal. The sounds isn't anything new, but this presentation still sounds fresh and vibrant.

    And, once again, the worm has turned and metal is no longer an "out" term. It's not in, but I think that might change soon enough. And without considering sill notions like that, Jozlin Bones flings out some cool music.

    Possibly too restrained and cultured at times to really fit into that whole "metal" thing, Jozlin Bones has enough skill and musical dexterity to play something for just about any fan of loud music from the past 20 years. The fun factor cannot be denied.


    Get Ready
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    This is the more recent release (I reviewed a disc last time out). And it doesn't sparkle like the earlier material. The songs are generally slower, not showing the variety of influences that were in evidence earlier.

    And by getting "more serious" or whatever, Jozlin Bones has taken away the significant portion of the fun factor that I liked. The songs sound much more contrived, as if writing them was almost a chore. And maybe that's a hint: Take a little more time.

    A real disappointment. I quite liked the earlier stuff, but this just doesn't match up at all. If the band could only tap into that fun vein again, all the excesses wouldn't weigh the sound down nearly as much. This tape is just way too light to be heavy in a good way, if you know what I mean.


    Jozlin Bones
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98

    I liked the first Jozlin Bones disc. The band had a fresh approach to basic metal, just enough of a twist to keep me appeased. The follow-up tape, which didn't have that same attitude, disappointed me. Bill Stu, guitarist and now vocalist, told me there was a reason the tape was not a CD. The stuff wasn't quite good enough, in the band's opinion.

    With Stu singing, the songs are now even more based on rhythm, and that somewhat more grinding approach (imagine Black Sabbath as played by Kiss) once again gives the band a fresh sound. Yeah, there's a fine line to walk between what the band wants to do and what its fans want to hear, but I think Jozlin Bones has rediscovered that feel.

    Just some basic heavy rock and roll. nothing complicated, nothing extravagant. The songs focus on the grooves, and they are much better for that fact. This stuff flies instead of plodding, and that makes all the difference.

    I'm impressed, once again. The tape was an anomaly. Jozlin Bones knows how to wring out some fine tunes.


    JRK
    JRK
    (Wide Hive)
    reviewed in issue #281, December 2006

    The usual polygenre effort from the Wide Hive crew. JRK plays happily in the fields of blues, rock, jazz, acid jazz, hip hop, bossa nova and whatever else happens to slither down the street. With Greg(ory) Howe's hands on the knobs, you know the result is going to sound exceptional.

    Indeed. This is very much a studio-created project (five of the six "band" members are credited as vocalists only, and the sixth apparently plays trumpet), and so there's no need to speculate on live performances. In fact, the spectacular nature of music rules out any such worries. Who cares if this could ever be replicated live as long as it's on this disc?

    The mix is busy, as ideas flow freely from one to the other just about every second. Beats comes and go, sly sample cuts bounce around like popcorn and every other element simply spins in time.

    The one striking thing about this album is how immediately engaging it is. Most Wide Hive releases are a step or two away from the mainstream. There's no reason the average music lover wouldn't pick this one up and shriek with instant pleasure. Drop the needle anywhere--this vein is a monster!


    The Judas Factor
    Kiss Suicide EP
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00

    A set of six songs that kinda hit on that moment when reality crushes idealism (or sometimes, when the world snuffs out life itself). The stridency of the hardcore adds to the drama of the lyrics, which are simply stunning.

    The power of the ideas expressed on this short set is astonishing. Not merely poetic, the words come together with the music to create something even more arresting. And by attacking this situation from many angles, the Judas Factor has created a many-layered picture.

    Sure I'd love to hear a full-length, but I'm not sure if this concept could be extended that far. I think the Judas Factor hit it just right here. This disc simply blew me away.


    Cary Judd
    Goodnight Human
    (China Mountain)
    reviewed in issue #308, June 2009

    Absolutely gorgeous experimental pop fare. Experimental in that Judd doesn't stick to the basic pop song structure, but don't fear. The hooks are absolutely amazing.

    Really. Judd has an almost inhuman knack for spinning catchy threads and then weaving them together into an irresistible tapestry of shimmery pop. Every song progresses along slightly different lines, but they all end up in the land of bliss.

    Judd is equally at home in the electronic and analog worlds. Often enough, he includes copious servings of both within a single song. So you get snatches of laptop and emo blending together into something greater.

    A transcendent album. I don't like to use that term often, because very few come close. But Judd blows away just about everything I've heard this year. Impossibly wonderful.


    Mike Judge and Old Smoke
    Sights...
    (Revelation)
    reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94

    If you are a Judge fan (and I know there are many out there), this album might come as a bit of a surprise. Here we have Mike doing his best to sound like soft Neil Young on five tracks, and then more of an urban blues distorted feel with Old Smoke on the last five.

    His voice keeps that spooky semblance, but it's forgivable. The songwriting is impeccable, and Judge kept the production to a minimum, so we can hear precisely what he wants us to feel.

    Sorta like the Sleep situation, if no riffs are stolen, no foul in my book. And for someone to emulate, I think Neil Young is about as good a choice as anyone. This is a full-course disc with all the trimmings. It shall be residing in my six-discer for months to come.


    Judge Nothing
    I'm a Big Girl Now
    (Thick)
    reviewed in issue #74, 4/15/95

    Hardcore at the center, but all sorts of stuff wanders around the fringe. You might get a poppy rave up or an anthemic whine.

    Just your basic rock band that likes to hear the guitars. Lots of guitars and songs about nothing in particular.

    Perhaps Judge Nothing is a sort of alternative bar band. Just working-class punk, rock and pop principles that are easy enough to swallow and digest. Nothing wrong with that.

    And nothing particularly exciting, either. I like the disc, but I don't love it. And that's about all I can say.


    Riveter
    (Thick)
    reviewed in issue #110, 5/27/96

    Take one of the better punk-pop bands in the Chicago, and let Bill Stevenson and Stephen Edgerton produce them. The result: a sophomore disc that outplays the first in every way.

    And don't get me wrong: I like that first disc a lot. But the ALL boys have stripped just a bit from the old sound, and the result is lean, mean pop music (wait, you mean like ALL used to make?). Gone are the occasional lapses into incoherence; this album is chock full of hooky ravers that would make Mac, Laura and friends drool.

    I don't say "oof" a lot, but, indeed, this album knocked the wind out of me. Fifteen songs. None of them suck, and most a great. This is one of those albums you'll be playing all summer with the top down. A perfect pleasure.

    Don't believe me? Thirty seconds into the first track, "Suitcase", you'll be convinced. And rest assured, the attack doesn't let up. I already thought this was a damned good band. Riveter puts Judge Nothing into the great category.


    2011 Sessions
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #330, September 2011

    Way back in the 90s, Judge Nothing released two of the greatest power pop albums of all time. Seriously. A few people noticed, but not enough. Then the boys got together this year and recorded two new songs. You can pick up those two and a couple from the excellent Riveter (including an astonishingly muscular and irony-free cover of "No Matter What") for free at the site below. Enjoy!


    Judith
    Play of Light
    (Neue Asthetik)
    reviewed in issue #226, February 2002

    Judith goes back a bit further into the bag than Garden of Dreams, incorporating a few new wave ideals into its goth pop sound. The vocals sound almost as if their track has been altered, sometimes sped up and sometimes slowed down for maximum spooky effect. This could also be in the singing, and if that's the case I'm impressed even more.

    There are also a few minimalist electronic elements to the sound, and in general Judith plays a very restrained version of the goth style. Very little here is over the top. Everything is well-proportioned, but nothing goes crazy.

    These songs are moody. But because the production avoided being heavy handed and excessive, that's alright. The music and lyrics sell the mood quite well. Well-conceived and executed.

    This is the sort of sound to bring old-line goth music up into the new century. Judith's use of new ideas works very well. Once you fall under the spell of this disc, it'll be awfully hard to escape.


    Julie the Band
    An Act of Communication
    (Baby Bird)
    reviewed in issue #314, February 2010

    Okay, this is one seriously ambitious band. Julie the Band pumps out layered anthem after layered anthem, hoping that the hooks are able to overcome the weight of the songs.

    By the way: These hooks could raise the Titanic. Which, honestly, is almost necessary at times. I'm at a loss to try and figure out why these boys are trying to put so much into what ought to be relatively simple rock songs. Maybe because these guys are in L.A. and think that a "deal" is actually worth any money these days. Or maybe because they're tired of listening to paper-thin songs and think they can do better.

    I'd say they know they can. This album is most assured, from the writing to the playing to the ultra-sharp, almost blinding production. I'm guessing these poor saps think that you can make some serious buckage with some seriously good music.

    Lightning does strike on rare occasions, but if it doesn't, you might as well make a good album. Julie the Band has the goods. I refuse to make commercial predictions, but I can say that I'll be listening to this one for years to come.


    June of 44
    The Anatomy of Sharks EP
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #125, 12/23/96

    Nicely throbbing chaos that never quite exterminates life as we know it. Although I'm sure the band isn't opposed to the concept. Certainly a musical revolution is in order.

    June of '44 has all the requisite Touch and Go touches, guitars that would make Kepone proud, and a puslating rhythm section that is reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard's finest hours. There is a reason for all that, by the way.

    This is a little taste to keep the huddles masses salivating for the next full-length, which is due sometime next year. Certainly keeps me in my place. Good stuff, man.


    Four Great Points
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #151, 1/19/98

    Part of the evolving collective of bands that probably can find roots in Louisville (Slint in particular), but is so far-flung at this point the main point of reference is how the folks share their talents.

    This, however, is one of the primary bands (like Shipping News is one of the side projects) of this amorphous group of musical geniuses. And, well, genius is a tough thing to quantify, but if you give this or any albums by the Rachels, Diagonah, etc., a close listen, you'd have to agree.

    What is it? Well, whatever the folks decide to do. The songs wretch and heave from riff to riff, always in a coherent fashion, but not always in the most accessible way. Music that demands attention, RIGHT NOW GODDAMNIT!!

    The folks at Quarterstick (Touch and Go, whatever) are really excited about this thing. They don't hype excessively, and in this case the agitation is most certainly dead-on. This is stunning musicianship, songwriting and presentation. Yeah, it generally fits into the whole noise pop movement, but June of 44 is so far past this temporal reality I can't even begin to describe what it feels like to actually experience this music.

    So far beyond great I can't even begin to give proper kudos.


    Anahata
    (Quarterstick-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #183, 6/7/99

    There's good bands, and then there's the best bands on the face of the earth. June of 44 falls into the latter category. Not for any ostensible musical talent (particularly singing), but for the songwriting. Few can bring together such unusual and disparate elements into percolating wholes like these boys can.

    The songs pulsate with life. They must be accepted on their own terms, because they do not fit into any recognized categories. And not to give the performance short shrift: the pieces are played most competently, if without virtuoso-style flash.

    But that's the thing here. The whole. The overall effect of the music. The reason for listening is what the music does to you. And there's no escaping the power and intensity of June of 44. This stuff will do you in if you let it.

    Me? I just surf along, riding the brilliance of the sonic waves. I'm guessing some folks might want a description of the music. Well, imagine a great noise pop outift, one which isn't afraid to chill out from time to time. Double your expectations, and June of 44 will exceed them.

    That really should be good enough.


    In the Fishtank EP
    (Konkurrent-Touch and Go)
    reviewed in issue #189, 10/11/99

    Recorded after the Anahata sessions, but before the album was released, this set of six songs showcases June of 44 at its frenzied, furious best. If you're not familiar with the concept, the Dutch Konkurrent label invites bands it likes to spend a couple days in the studio and craft a 20-30 minute EP.

    The liners call this a link between the band's two previous outings, but really, I simply hear it as more of an extension of June of 44's general musical approach. Which involves kinda dancing around a few musical ideas, eventually coming to some sort of consensus on the subject.

    The short writing and recording time, which is intended to bring an almost improvisational quality to the music, seems to have inspired the boys. While three of the songs contain some form of the word "generate," to be honest, they all take rather divergent paths. Which, of course, follows previous form.

    Me, I think getting any and everything by June of 44 is a really, really good thing. Even so, this is a project more than worth experiencing for yourself. The band is in top form, and the music is nothing short of astonishing. Even if that is, in fact, the usual from these guys.


    June Panic
    Glory Hole
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    Clunky pop which appropriates just about every style imaginable, twisting every melody into an annoying sing-song bit by the finish. Lots of toying with distortion and the manipulation of recording levels, which has left much of the sound plain fuzz.

    It doesn't work all the time, but I have to applaud the adventurous spirit. A big load of tunes (28 in all) to cycle through, and my guess is that for every truly aggravating song you'll find one you like.

    The songwriting is fair to middling; the real chances are taken with the arrangements and recording. That's enough to get me a bit excited, though I do wish these wildly eccentric sounds had something a little more interesting in the middle. Ah well.

    Bonus points for crafting one of the strangest straight pop albums I've heard. Sure, it could have been better, but it's always better to be different than generic.


    June Panic
    Intro to Airlift

    split CD
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #144 (9/29/97)

    More from the increasingly impressive Secretly Canadian list. Each band gets five songs, and the liners and packaging are individually created (man, I just couldn't get it to scan in right, but trust me, it looks very cool). Top notch music and way-cool coverings. Quality all the way.

    Intro to Airlift plays atonal surf music, or perhaps really peppy and light emo. I like the first description myself, and this somewhat unorthodox approach to perky guitar pop is very attractive to my ears. Each of the five songs develops in a unique way, which further shows off the extensive musical knowledge of the band.

    More June Panic, which means five songs which don't seem to have anything to do with each other. Once again, the band focuses on putting plenty of finishing touches rather than on actual songwriting, but that technique still works. The songs are a wild melange of styles romping through the pop universe, and they compliment the creativity of Intro to Airlift very well.

    These bands don't sound much like each other at all, but the desire to explore united them and the disc. A wonderful set.


    Fall of Atom: A Thesis on Entropy
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #152, 2/9/98

    Another of the rather prolific members of the Secretly Canadian stable. The last full length (which I got last July) had 28 songs, and this puppy has 24. Let's also not forget the five songs released on a split LP with Intro to Airlift last fall. Talk about cranking the stuff out.

    And like Matthew Sweet, there is a penalty to pay for being so prolific. A few clunkers, and other songs that definitely could have benefited from a re-write or two. Still, the vast majority of the songs are great, a kind of sloppy pop music that endears, even while eschewing such concepts as hooks, tuning and good singing.

    In fact, the whiny, nasal vocals can get grating. But these songs would not work with a stereotypically fine singer. So I'm inclined to think this style actually helps make these unusual songs work better.

    Highly introspective fare, idiosyncratic and somewhat annoying. On the whole, though, I'm a big fan. In fact, I can't think of anyone who cranks out so much stuff with such consistency. Impressive, to say the least.


    Horror Vacui
    (Secretly Canadian)
    reviewed in issue #196, 3/6/00

    Well, June has got himself a band. Or, at least, he's got some sides. Calls them his "Silver Sound." This way there is bit more of a live feel, but the featured performers here are the songs themselves.

    The typical June Panic song dives straight for an utterly uncomfortable subject and then probes that area for a long while. There's not much in the way of middle ground. I kinda like that sort of uncompromising approach.

    So I've listened to this thing three times already today, and I'm still climbing into the songs and examining my own responses. There comes a point (usually after the 10th listen, I think) where my reactions become a bit predictable. That, of course, is the complacency point.

    There's no way to escape the power of these songs. They will overwhelm you. But you gotta let that happen. Can't worry about it. At some point your subconscious will strike back, and that's where you've got to pay attention.

    Man, I love music that does this to me.


    June Star
    Cora Belle
    (Milltown)
    reviewed in issue #300, September 2008

    This one didn't make the cut last issue, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Maybe it's that I've been listening to more Uncle Tupelo lately...lead singer and songwriter Andrew Grimm is an aural doppelganger for Jay Farrar.

    But these aren't Uncle Tupelo (or Son Volt) songs. They're Andrew Grimm songs, and played by June Star. Timothy Bracken is the other half of the duo, and he does a lot of the playing and all the producing. The two guys make one hell of a team.

    It's hard to make rolling roots music with just two people. Takes skill, devotion and a little luck. June Star has all that. These songs sound like they're being played live to tape, with just enough knob-twisting to bring out the sweet spots. Most solid.

    I'm still stumped as to why I didn't dig this as much the first time around. Maybe because it is right up my alley. I just don't trust something that stabs me in the heart and twists the knife. Oh well. If I listen to a good album enough times, eventually I'll figure it out. I'm thinking it won't take quite so long for most other people.


    Jr. Juggernaut
    Ghost Poison
    (Suburban Home)
    reviewed in issue #297, June 2008

    Suburban Home specializes in punk-tinged country music, often coming in trio form. Most often, its bands owe old school (No Depression, Still Feel Gone) Uncle Tupelo a great debt--even while carving out their own little piece of the sound. That's pretty much what Jr. Juggernaut does, too.

    Which is cool by me. Uncle Tupelo was the house band of my college years at Missouri, so I kinda have an emotional connection to this style. Jr. Juggernaut is more muscular than most. In many ways, these boys have more of a Blasting Room sound than many bands that record at the Descendents HQ.

    Behind that throbbing wall lies some really nice thinking. These songs may be bashed out with abandon, but they're put together with grace and care. Not many bands can sound gentle even while thrashing out rootsy riffs at 11. These boys certainly do have a special talent.

    And they're from California. California? I feel like I'm in that old salsa commercial. California? Good music works everywhere, I suppose. And these boys sure do good music right. Lovely noise.


    Juniper Lane
    Tightrope
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #213, 3/12/01

    Juniper Lane wants a bite from the red apple. Wants it real bad. Know something? It just might get there.

    The band's soft-pedaled groove rhythms and Vivion Smith's strong vocals are just the sort of thing that major label might want. These songs go down easy; they don't excite me much, but they're not offensive, either.

    And there's just enough underlying complexity. The playing is excellent, with plenty of feeling to drive the energy of the songs. like I said, this isn't exactly my sound, but I think these folks have all the tools necessary to hit it really big. They just need some luck (and, unfortunately, some punchier production).

    The enclosed note also called these songs "radio-friendly." They sure are. Just bland enough to be of interest to a mass audience. I'm not ripping there; if you want to be big, you can't be too original. Juniper Lane straddles the line, and does it about as well as I can imagine.


    Junk
    Continuation of Madness
    (Faffco)
    reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97

    Groove jazz that should satisfy just about everyone. Junk refuses to stick to any particular form, although most songs have an r&b/jazz base and then move from there.

    I've always liked the instrumental side of acid jazz. It's the singers who want to be Whitney Houston that bug me. Junk is much more than just acid jazz, but you get the idea of the roots.

    Smooth, rough, ragged and simply sublime. Junk plows through the cliches and delivers solid, accessible sax and guitar grooves. Nothing is sacred. The band simply appropriates what it needs and moves on.

    The sound is amazing. A wonderful live mix, combined with accents on the right instruments at the right time. A fine job of knob twisting by two members of the band. Hey, they know what they wanted, and they got it in full.

    A fine amalgam of American music. Junk has a beautiful feel for creating unity from diversity, and Continuation of Madness is a brilliant testament to the band's future.


    Junkyard Empire
    Rebellion Politik
    (Media Roots Music)
    reviewed in issue #318, June 2010

    Fitting in much better with the political hip-hop of twenty years ago, Junkyard Empire brings old school attitude and style up to date on this blistering set.

    And, yes, this is a band. The music isn't just a backing track. It's its own animal, with ideas at least as complex as the rhymes. Yes, yes, I'm always more about the music. On this album, that's only appropriate.

    This album sounds great. The mix between the rhymes and the music is almost perfect, weaving both together most wonderfully. Rather than subjugating one or another, the production here enhances all aspects of the songs.

    The rhymes are perceptive, clever and delivered with exceptional grace. Nothing sounds forced. This is an album of uncommon poetry. Mindblowing fare.


    Jupiter Coyote
    Here Be Dragons
    (Roadrunner)
    released in issue #160, 6/1/98

    Roadrunner has been trying to broaden its appeal for ages. Sometimes, even the good efforts (Senator Flux, Blue Mountain) haven't quite made big inroads in the sales department. But hell, the folks keep on trying. Jupiter Coyote is a southern rock band. That's southern rock a la R.E.M., Blues Traveler and the Hootieman.

    So is it really southern? I dunno. I do know that the songs tend to cheese out just at the moment when something profound could be taking place. Well, some songs are bad imitations from the start ("Words" is an eight-minute excursion that never needed to shove off shore), but there are some pieces which opt out for the easy kill at precisely the wrong time.

    You know what I mean. The difference between, say, "Radio Free Europe" and "Stand" is that the first keeps a simple groove and never chooses the obvious transition. The latter song invariably lurches toward an easily-predicted course. Jupiter Coyote is rocking by the numbers here, and I find the lack of originality truly boring.

    Too bad, too, because many of these songs did have potential. Until the chorus and bridge comes along. Then it's time to march in line with everybody else.


    Jupiter One
    Jupiter One
    (Cordless Recordings)
    reviewed in issue #291, November 2007

    If you're wondering, Cordless is something of a boutique label within Warner Brothers. One of those experiments the majors are conducting to try and figure out how to stay relevant in the music business. Just so you know. Now, on to Jupiter One.

    Tight and bouncy pop, with just enough reverb in the guitar to sound, well, cool. This is not just crafted, but conceptualized as well. I wasn't surprised in the least when I figured out where the Cordless offices sat. Nonetheless, I always tip my hat to a major when it actually releases interesting music.

    Jupiter One is most interesting--and it's certainly accessible, as well. It might help to think of a brighter and lighter Flaming Lips. I do wish there was a bit more depth to the songwriting--these pieces seem to be exactly what they are--but I can live with that.

    I'd like to hear these folks step out on a few more limbs. I think the band has the chops to do it. Nonetheless, this is a fine little disc. Summer may have passed, but the next wave has yet to break.


    Ted Just
    Baroquen Dreams
    (self-released)
    reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97

    I'm just not sure how to take this. Just sampled every sound he used and then cranked out a set of tunes that sound something like Joe Satriani merged with Michael Sembello (remember "Maniac"?) synth cheese and then run over that Mannheim Steamroller-style upbeat-but-annoying rhythm track. And yet, I kinda like what he does.

    At least once every song, Just plants a musical thought that is quite original, particularly considering what is generally surrounding it. Sometimes this is the key theme of the piece, and sometimes it is a five-second interlude.

    Waiting for that moment is a bitch, though. The new age references almost drive me nuts, and if that wasn't enough, the astonishingly generic filler behind his main ideas is stultifying.

    The most annoying thing is that I can tell that Just has some really interesting ideas. He simply doesn't express them very often. This is classy new age music, to be sure, but it could have been a lot more. There's something hidden in the ore.


    Just Plain Big
    Pets Sound
    (Double Deuce)
    reviewed in issue #83, 8/21/95

    Light pop with as many easy listening and country touches as surf-punk ones meandering through the mix.

    The whole point is silliness, from my vantage point. I tried to find some sort of subtext for the wackiness, but that attempt merely resulted in failure.

    Sorta like a revved-up Harry Chapin on happy pills. Well, that doesn't sound quite right, either, but I guess I'll stick with it. Weird and mildly amusing.


    Just Plain Bill
    Spoke
    (CM)
    reviewed in issue #96, 1/22/96

    Just yer basic kids wanting to have a little fun playing garage pop music. And when the beat straightens out and picks up, the cruising is fine.

    Unfortunately, Just Plain Bill wants to do more than play straight 4/4 stuff with no syncopation. Well, the impulse to expand the sound is good, but the band can't pull it off. "Hollywood Cab Ride" is about as good a pop tune as I've heard in a while. And most of the rest of the album is lost in attempts to play funk, reggae (I think; I couldn't really tell) or whip out a ballad or two. All that stuff sounds really tight and uncomfortable.

    I think the band should continue on this tack, as pure pop bands aren't terribly in demand (what happened to the Posies, after all?) right now. More playing around and such will eventually blend everything Just Plain Bill wants to do into a pop sound much more convincingly. The trick with pop music is to sound at ease, and that's where the band really fails. The only cure is work.


    Juster
    I Remember that Night
    (TVT)
    reviewed in issue #57, 6/30/94

    Is it rap, metal or industrial? With the trendy terminology in use, I'll call it rap with a pleasant dose of the other two.

    What the Hard Corps might have sounded like if they had found some nice beats. There are reasonable riffs and pieces of distortion flying around, but everything is grounded in the groove. It all fits together perfectly.

    Completely infectious, I'd like to hear a full disc. Four tracks of crunchy goodness that manages to avoid being throwaway. It gets a little silly at times, but you try and find any act that doesn't tread those waters from time to time. Juster is pretty damned exciting.


    Justin Hale
    In Formation
    (Daemon)
    reviewed in issue #190, 11/1/99

    This would be a group, in case the "name" threw you. Justin Hale wanders about a mellow electronic hip-hop tip, bringing to mind a grungier version of De La Soul or Jungle Brothers. There's also more than a bit of the G Love goin' down as well.

    The most interesting part of the experience is the music. Sure, the raps of these "New South Honkies" drop plenty of social consciousness, but it's the bluesy, folky, funky backing music which really lends the band its unique feel.

    Now, with major label money and an overeager producer, these boys would probably sound like any other rap band. But a limited budget requires some experimentation, and that effort has lent this disc a highly attractive sound. The rhymes flow with ease, and the grooves simply spin back upon each other.

    Band, by the way, is the proper term. The instrumentation, while sampled at times, is played by individuals. There is a drum machine, but also a drummer. Organic, and yet electronic. Fresh, and yet profound. Good and yet, well, good


    JustSayJoe
    The Will to Believe
    (UndiscoveredMusic.com)
    reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00

    JustSayJoe is Joe Moss, who's also behind the startup of UndiscoveredMusic.com. He's an unabashed fan of Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffet, CSN&Y and folk-country-island rock in general, with more than a nod to Motown. If that makes sense.

    Certainly, his music flows straight from his influences. Moss doesn't steal (or even borrow) a thing; he's worked very hard to try and craft his own sound. Musically, he's not taking chances, but the craft is solid enough.

    The lyrics, however, need work. Moss is extraordinarily earnest, and he writes just the way he thinks. There's nothing hidden, no mystery in his lyrics. The songs read like polemics, and at times he forces his words into the music. That never sounds good.

    My suggestion would be to take all the lyrics and use them as notes while rewriting. Find the magic that exists within the ideas (but not the words as expressed now) and bring them out into the songs. Oblique lyrics are always more intriguing than obvious ones. Or to put it another way, imagine if Pete Townsend sang "I don't think I want to be old. It's a lot more fun being young."


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