HEAD OVER HEELS - The Jape Squad (Independent)
Judging by hearsay reports of the band's album launch (supported by the iconoclastic one-man band John Schooley) at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, The Jape Squad still know how to turn on a good show. Their live shows are legendary for audience interaction and excitement, the sort of show you go and see on the understanding that you may find yourself involuntarily part of the show. But the band draws a distinction between its vivid live show and its recorded material.
Recorded in late 2004 (with the ubiquitous Lindsay Gravina at Birdland Studios), Head Over Heels is the Jape Squad's third full length release following 2003's Modern Holiday (Corduroy Records) and last year's Breakfast with Japesquad (Spooky).
The first time I listened to the new album I found myself waiting for something to grab me; the opening few tracks, while neither offensive nor insipid, lacked sufficient inspiration or bite to make an indelible mark in my mind. On "Call Me Up" and "The Lighthouse Lied" the sound has a blues-country feel, something in the ballpark of Spencer P Jones' solo releases (including his Last Gasp material), but a bit heavier. "The Ending" is prophetically titled, labouring through without much invigoration.
But the turning point came with Bodyline, a punchy tune that fleshes out a riff that pays homage to The Who's "Pictures of Lily" with keyboard fuelled crescendos. "Medicine" builds on this inertia, taking a Exile-era Rolling Stones feel (with just a hint of the Keef riff that ultimately found its way onto "Start Me Up") and spicing it with the effects of beer-soaked session at the pub.
After that peak, "Not What We're Looking For" returns to the earlier reserved tone, a song that could be the soundtrack for the late in the evening when you've downed 10 beers and have found yourself in the morose, beer goggled moment when life stumbles drunkenly past your eyes; the presence of some grating white feedback and shimmering cymbal flashes takes the song into Velvet Underground territory and shows the band is quite happy to take the needles to 11. "Precious" is a bouncing country blues tune with enough pop sensibility (and keyboard icing) and Neil Young guitar moments to rouse the listener out of their slumber and get them back on the floor and dancing. The last song, "Parachute", is a subtle country influenced tune complete with drawling hicksville vocals that stretch every lyric out for maximum effect.
A band like The Jape Squad is always going to spend its time in the studio playing catch-up to its live reputation. And when your live reputation is so impressive, any studio output will be relatively underdone. This is a good album; but if you like it, take the time to see the band live.
- Patrick Emery
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