The Shoebox of Delights – #11 – Chosen by Dirk (Sexy Loser)
JJ72 – JJ72
Earlier today I went to the beach with my daughter, as we sat on the seafront eating an ice cream (her chocolate, me strawberry), we saw a man being hassled by seagulls, they wanted his chips and so did he. In keeping with a recent theme, he through a cup of coffee at it. He missed and hit a passing vicar who was cycling past on a bike. That made my day. It has nothing to do with the music below, it was just funny. I wish I’d filmed it. Anyway….
Does anyone actually remember JJ72? I have to admit I had forgotten that they even existed. When I pulled this CD out of the box, I thought about them for the first time in about seven years and that may just be the reason why people forgot about them.
So you probably already know that JJ72 were a teen guitar trio from Dublin who said at the time of their arrival that they wanted to make music that makes people feel like they’ve never felt before’. That is quite a statement, Phil Collins already makes music that me feel like I’ve never felt before, but I would imagine that is an altogether different feeling to the one they meant. This was their debut album and whilst it was an ambitious and in parts brilliant debut album – it never achieved the soaring heights I think people expected it to.
JJ72 have a bit of Joy Division fixation I think it is fair say that, and this record tries to do what Joy Division did so effectively. The record is at times very emotional, then it is tender and then powerful. It does of course, contain tunes, lots of them. Firstly and probably most specifically is the angst ridden railing at the sky of their most well known single Snow in which singer Mark Greaney doesn’t just sing at the lack of the white snow but he growls, screeches like a banshee and positively has a hissy fit at it, ‘Why won’t it snow?’ he hollers, yes why won’t it? Apart from it being August, I can think no other reason for it not snowing when I played this earlier today. I wanted it to snow just so see what happened to his voice after that. I hate to think what would have happened if it was just sleet. Bastard weather, never does what you want it to.
mp3 : JJ72 – Snow
Perhaps the best Joy Division impression can be seen in the brooding sprawl of guitars and electronica that is Long Way South but there are other influences there, there is the rawness and dare I say it melancholy of Bends era Radiohead and then soft bit followed loud bit subtly of Nirvana. The Radiohead comparison I think is underlined the most with the swooning brilliance of this:-
mp3 : JJ72 – Surrender
Elsewhere the record is teeming with ideas, second single Oxygen has the downright cheek to use an orchestra and sweeping strings and made it sound fantastic. This despite the strings bit in indie records being the most deeply unfashionable and rubbish thing to do since the Manic Street Preachers did it on every single record they released from 1995 – 2001. JJ72 also includes a track (Algeria) that makes use of handclaps and one that even manages to feature a xylophone (Not Like You), neither are that memorable in terms of their musical greatness.
mp3 : JJ72 – Oxygen
One thing that is memorable is of course, the voice of the singer Mark Greaney. Its somewhere between Fergal Sharkey and Jeff Buckley, or like Brian from Placebo on a 40 a day habit, only far less irritating and I think something of an acquired taste (think defrocked choirboy). At times, I cannot fathom out what he is going on about. Though when it comes together with the music behind it, I am lost as to why JJ72 just slipped out of the back door without anyone noticing. They and this should have been huge so what happened?
At the time JJ72 had plenty of airplay, that if dolled out to a band today would result in them being hugely popular. They had the press excited, they had crowds cheering them at nearly every festival worth its salt and for about two months tracks like Oxygen and October Swimmer made them a captivating and intriguing band, full of passion and ambition.
But, today, well if you have never heard JJ72 then I’ll be honest, they ain’t going to change your life and it is difficult to see why everyone found this band so captivating. I’ve listened to this album twice today, and, now, it seems so naïve and a bit self indulgent. I’m aware that sounds patronising and I’ll also say that all three of them individually have more musical talent in their toenails than I do in my entire body, but it does. It just does. It’s still good, it still deserves your attention, but you will have forgotten about it come Christmas.
Being honest, I couldn’t have told you the first thing about JJ72 before this post but then I listened to the tracks S-WC attached to the e-mail and realised I knew a couple of them. So many bands of that particular era seemed to pull off trick but then again its an age thing.
What I mean by that is that there will be plenty of late 20 and early 30 somethings who will have thought of JJ72 as the future of rock’n’roll – which I can completely understand – in the same way that I can sing-along to every word of every Jam, New Order and Smiths b-side or album track then there will be devotees of JJ72 who can do likewise with their songs.
Oh and just to say that S-WC is away on holiday for a bit so this wee series will be on hold for a couple of weeks.