Thursday, September 24, 2009

Requested Review: "Jupiter One" by Jupiter One


Friend and blogreader Dan Yepes has done America a great service through this album request. Because, when it comes right down to it, I think he has been the only person to request an actual modern-day indie rock album! Perish the thought! Looking through all the requests I've gotten, most seem to run the gamut of classic rock to jokey party rap, but nothing I could classify as "hip" with today's indie-rock crowd. That Songs: Ohia review came kinda close, but jeez that album came out when Marcy Playground were still a hot commodity. Honestly, I expected a whole slew of indie rock from you guys, but I haven't seen that much! Oh well. Looks like I'll have to focus all of my unabashed hatred of all things indie into one article. Sorry, Jupiter One - you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Aha. No, I'm generalizing. I don't hate modern day indie rock - I just feel that most of it is, more often than not, on the "Last Train to Dullsville" (heheheh, ya like that?!?). So I guess it's not too surprising that the Jupiter One album by so-called indie-rock group Jupiter One does not do all that much for me in the "excitement" department. See, before I started listening to them I somehow got the impression that I would be listening to an electro-pop group, and the opener "Intro for Ani Endorda" confirmed this suspicion. But then, I heard "Countdown" and realized that what we REALLY have here is your basic modern indie rock group: clean, post-punk-influenced pop rock with an 80's dance bend, fronted by a disaffected singer who sounds like Alex Kapranos without the spunk. Your Interpol here, your Coldplay there. Sometimes the lead guy sounds like Sting, actually - usually in the chorus of each song, where he decides to sing a slightly more "uppity" voice. But it's not a common occurrence.

Okay - and I mean it this time - since when does this count as indie rock? I mean, I don't want to belabor the point, but none of this music sounds the least bit "indie." It's cleanly produced dance-pop-rock with electronic flourishes. That's it. Is it "indie" 'cause the singer doesn't sound like he's enjoying himself even the slightest bit? Is that it? How about the occasional faux-Britishness? That too? Or maybe I'm focusing on the wrong thing here. Maybe they're on an indie label? So were the Offspring. I don't think that counts. You know - yeah, I'm not going to talk about this. I'll stop here. Because, in the end, who gives a shit? People have been arguing about the "indie rock" label for decades now, and it's only gotten worse in the past five or six years. So I'll do you (and myself) a favor and move on amicably.

(pshh. "indie rock." PSHHH)

My problem with Jupiter One isn't that they're "indie." It's that they don't seem to be doing anything new or interesting. Now, I'll clarify - I don't think that a band needs to be shockingly original in order to be good. If that were the case, there would not be much room for Hanson in my heart, would there?? But there needs to be some distinction - some guts, some verve - that makes an otherwise run-of-the-mill band stand out from its peers, and Jupiter One doesn't have it. When I can't listen to a band without immediately thinking of every other band from the past five years that sounds exactly like them, then something is wrong.

It's a little upsetting. I don't want to hate, you know? Despite the potentially inflammatory title of this blog (which I came up with on a whim like three years ago and would LOVE to change, but at this point it's kinda stuck hasn't it), I don't enjoy ranting about bands I don't care about and never listen to. Once in a while it is definitely therapeutic for me to get angry about a band I don't like, but, y'know - not when it's public. When I type out my "I hate indie rock for this and that reason" schpiel, not only is it never as effective and "cutting" as I picture it to be in my head, but it just comes across as petty and mean. Which it is of course.

So here is what I will say about Jupiter One. They do not excite me the least bit. Something I do like about them: once in a while they will write an eerily hooky chorus that makes me say "oooh." Like "Moon Won't Turn" - kind of a "meh" song, but with a spacey, harmonized chorus that reminds me of early 70's Pink Floyd. And once in a while, they'll pull out a surprisingly fun jaunty song - "Unglued," for instance, a song I think I would enjoy much more if someone else sang it. But then, you know, the annoying parts stand out too - like the BLUGGH vocals in "Wrong Line," or the overuse of that crappy synth-violin sound you hear bands like the Killers use. It crops up on a few songs on here, and man I HATE it so so much. It just sounds so sterile. Good song: the closing track "Way To The Floating Hospital / The Miracle Of Flight," an ethereal piece of nigh-baroque pop, with harmonized vocals and a loopy electronic coda. "Oooooh" I say! "Bluhhhhh" to most of the rest of the album, though. There is just nothing to see here.

I'm sorry, Dan. I really wanted to like this one! I listened to it like three times hoping it would eventually become my favorite record, but that did not happen. As such, I must be moving on.

Final thoughts: I can see why people would like this album. It's well-produced, occasionally catchy, and features a cool "I-don't-give-a-shit-bout-nuthin-including-the-song-I-am-singing-right-now" vocalist. But it's not for me. In a word - and I guess, now that the decade's almost over, I am free to say this - this album is so 2000s.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Forget the domain name, I think that's a pretty wonderfully written essay that addresses a lot of your qualms with the meaning of "indie" over the last decade - the music, the aesthetic, the culture, for better or worse.

I've never listened to Jupiter One but I get the feeling that I don't need to. They played here last year with a presumably similar band, The Silent Years, who had that same "INDIE" sound - pleasant, poppy, noncommittal - that makes kids in skinny jeans and double-breasted buttoned-down plaid shirts blog their fingers off. You know full well that I'd be far more likely to be listening to an advance copy of some hip band's debut album that you are, but yeah, I've been getting pretty tired of this faceless sort of stuff too. It was nice for a while, back when the whole thing was kicking into gear, but it's completely tried and true by now, only a couple years later.

Thankfully, everything that comes out these days doesn't fall into these unfortunate stylistic confines. On one end, you get bands like No Age (who I know you like), Pissed Jeans and Jay Reatard who keep the tempos and amp levels way up. On the other end, you get folks like Antony Hegarty and Joanna Newsom (who I have a feeling you wouldn't like, but eh) who mine out their hearts and run them over some incredible orchestral arrangements, providing excitement through emotional intensity. Of course, plenty of the best stuff that still comes out these days are from the old mainstays - Dinosaur Jr, Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, Morrissey, Sonic Youth, etc. which is an obvious testament to the talents of decades ago, but I don't feel like their releases are too far off from many of the more notable works of new talents.

So the stereotype is dull as shit, but there's still some great stuff beyond it. Which I'm sure you already knew anyway, so I'll just go ahead and ask this then: Is there a Taarküs Taarküs review in the near future?