By Jesus and his Judgemental Father
One of the many pleasures I have in life is when my expectations are fulfilled in an entirely predictable way, like when I buy a record based entirely on how much I like the cover and it turns out to be amazing. I realise that one should never 'judge a book (or record) by its cover' but let's be honest, a lot of the time you totally can. This happened to me with the 'Coolin in Cali' 12" by The 7A3, Ugly Duckling's 'Bang For The Buck' LP and today it happened again with Jesus and his Judgemental Father's 'Kings and Queens' album. I've always thought presentation is really important with any artistic endeavour, whether it's music, film or literature as it can help prime you for the experience you are about to have and can actually enhance your enjoyment by channelling your subjective pre-conceived ideas in a specific direction. For me it's never just about the music, it's also about the 'thing' itself and with 'Kings and Queens' JAHJF have made a really lovely 'thing'. So the booklet that comes with the CD contains a nicely drawn and genuinely funny comic strip, some nice cut and paste pictures, a band collage, facts about Astro Boy and other such delights. Good call ladies, I'm nicely primed.
Onto the music then. 'Rockstar' is a lively, catchy post-modern pop punk anthem that kind of made me feel like I was 8 years old on a trampoline with my best friend. JAHJF take you gently by the hand and bounce you all over the place. Nice harmonies too. 'What Now' is a touch more melancholy but still has that joyous energy while at the same time telling a bitter-sweet story of love lost. The production is really tight with nice contrast between the rise and fall of the guitars and the solid drums all holding up the wonderfully paced vocals. I do enjoy a bit of social commentary with my pop punk and the title track 'Kings and Queens' is a great example of how to do this without sounding overly preachy. Sound-wise it comes up on you like a rotund and jolly uncle with ruddy cheeks and a huge grin but who is secretly calling you a twat under his breath.
'About a Straight Girl' is much heavier and has some lovely frantic guitar work, as does 'Tentacle Love' which unfortunately isn't about Toru Yamazaki's 'Octopus Girl' manga but is still very nice in spite of this. 'Malthusiasm' and 'Something in the Dirt' are more of the same, not stand out tracks by any means but fit well within the context of the rest of the album and add weight to the overall sound and vibe JAHJF give off. 'Princess Piss' is a blinder however with great rhythms and lyrics that made me feel slightly queasy. Great stuff. By the way did I mention that the lead singer of this group sounds a bit like the lead singer of The Bangles? The similarity ends there though as I can't see The Bangles ever recording a song like 'Cunt'. What a great track, firmly in the hardcore punk genre it's 27 seconds of hard, fast, loud guitars, drums and obscenities. Ace. From obscenities to friendship with another pop punk anthem in 'Party Hat' with its 'Nirvana-esque' acoustic intro and lyrics to make you smile like "She's hopeless and tragic but I think she's magic". I'm totally going to see this band live next time they play. 'Astro Boy' brings a country vibe to the party and is a heartfelt homage to one of Japans most famous robotic exports with stripped down acoustic rhythms and great harmonies again.
Interesting fact: in 2007 Astro Boy was named Japans envoy for overseas safety (thanks Wikipedia!).The final two tracks 'Danger' and 'Toast and Tramadol' (fantastic title) round off the album nicely and are, rather predictably catchy and fun but heartfelt and like every other track on the album beautifully put together.
I honestly can't find fault with this LP. Maybe I'm just easily pleased but when you have a beautifully presented album full of songs that make you nod your head while at the same time putting a smile on your face, what more could you possibly want?
Esper Scout are an alt. rock/progressive four-piece based in Leeds, UK.