Jaguar Love – Hologram Jams

What would you say if I told you some of the members of a highly abrasive hardcore punk band took their stab at some electronic pop for a change? All the attention that’s being paid to this new project Jaguar Love isn’t entirely undeserved. Many people still remember the now-defunct band the Blood Brothers for their excellent Burn, Piano Island, Burn. The album was an impressive bout of teen impetuousness combined with intense irreverence for all the confines that make music “pretty” and thus broadly marketable. The guitars were delightfully filthy and the drumming offensively potent throughout the album’s duration. Several carefully-placed melodic passages that sound almost restrained, albeit still laden with Johnny Whitney’s erratic vocal style, were able to effectively counter-balance all the ugliness without disturbing the continuity of the album. In short, the album was a well-balanced piece of repulsiveness and sensitivity, perhaps not unlike the young musicians themselves.

It was a shot in the dark, but it stuck like spray paint on a wall. 7 years later, I still go back to the record now and again to delight in the wreckage on tape. But even though many hipsters at the time found a particular liking towards the dirt and grit on their surprisingly compelling Burn, Piano Island, Burn, nobody seriously held the musical competence of the Blood Brothers in particularly high esteem. At the core of the band, they were just kids. Their music burned with a youthful vigor that was just as transient as it was potent. It was obvious that the inspiration couldn’t last once they were all grown up. The band broke up several years ago after releasing their fifth album.

They were down, but not quite out. It seems the former brothers now-turned-jaguars weren’t content with merely refining their fairly idiosyncratic sound, or at least with running it into the ground. On this newest outing of theirs, the remaining brothers have tied back their feral guitars and picked up the computer to churn out some highly accessible electro pop that stinks with the taint of unoriginality and an absence of inspiration. Hologram Jams is the atrocious product of when you strip away the one calling card the band has and replace it with blatant struggles towards mass appeal.

From the get-go, it’s obvious how weak of an attempt this album will prove to be. The opener “I Started a Fire” breaks out in a tacky electric light show of synthesized sounds. Whitney’s voice pounds the title of the track in your head with awkwardly tense vocalizations; he still has the grit left over from his Blood Brothers work, but his vocals are tame, tailored, and all too predictable. It should become quickly apparent that this is not the best of settings for this kind of vocalist; if it doesn’t, there’re still 11 more blandly repetitive tracks ahead of you.

Everything else that follows suffers from the same flaws: an over-adherence to the “singles” criteria and a lack of both lyrical and melodic direction. Not one single song (pun intended) sits more than a few seconds away from the 4-minute mark. On top of that, nearly every song unfolds and closes in the exact manner you would expect to hear in any tailor-made radio fodder song, INTRO, VERSE, CHORUS. INTRO, VERSE, CHORUS. INTRO, VERSE, CHORUS. It’s nothing more than arbitrary and nothing less than frustratingly repetitive. The real icing on the cake here (or perhaps knife inside of the cake) is the fact that not one of the album’s twelve songs is in the least bit memorable. The lyrics are as shallow and insipid as anything else you’ll hear on VH1, but without the infectious melodies and vocal hooks. As brutal as it sounds, the album is almost a complete waste of time and perhaps little more than a false testament to the insularity of inspiration.

Overall, Hologram Jams is plagued by a lamentable adherence to convention. If anything, it’s a brash stereotyping of the whole electro pop field, much in the way Lil’ Wayne’s Rebirth was an insult to rock and roll. Both are horrendous failed attempts of artists to change musical direction and everybody knows how much of an inside joke Rebirth has become. Maybe some musicians should merely stick to doing what they know best.

by Mason “Yes, those are giraffes” McGough

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