Review Summary: Easily Misunderstood is great. Mkay? Get it.
Post rock has always been somewhat of a challenge for me to dive into. So far, I’ve taken many stabs at the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, This Will Destroy You, and other prominent bands within the genre, and the only one I can really “get” what all the craze about the genre is about is Sigur Ros’s ( )
, and only then I can only use it as background music. So what turns me away from the genre? Impatience. It takes a large amount of patience and attention to really enjoy what post-rock has to offer, and that’s just something I am not very capable of. When I hear the genre mentioned, I immediately think of ten minutes of a delayed, clean guitar lead repeating itself until the “climax” kicks in, which is the meat of the song. I know this is the wrong impression to have, but it is hard to shake rid of it.
That image was shattered and swept away when I took my first listen of The Samuel Jackson Five’s Easily Misunderstood.
Aside from having the most clever/awesome/cheesy band name ever, what do The Samuel Jackson Five have to offer? It is difficult to explain it until you have heard it for yourself. The band comes from Norway, like their fellow jazz-influenced post rockers Jaga Jazzist, and shares many similarities. The Samuel Jackson Five make use of a wide array of instruments, ranging from layers and layers of guitar to a full string section, and also keep a strong (though definitely not as strong as Jaga Jazzists’) jazz influence. However, SJ5 does not exactly keep a consistent sound throughout the album. With each track there are numerous twists and turns. In some areas it may keep a slow but steady rhythm while others are jumpy and quick.
Another quality of the album that stunned me was the immense musicianship involved. Every member is exceptional at their respective instruments. Each member of the quintet seems to fill in wherever as needed, as each one has multi-instrumental talent. There are often as many as three different guitars harmonizing together at a time, each with an interesting lead of its own. The bass stands out frequently, providing many slick and jazzy lines, such as the intro of ”If You Show Off The Milk, Who’s Gonna Buy The Cow?”
The drumming is extremely solid and consistent throughout, providing some tribal beats here and there such as in ”No Name”
, and giving also dishing out some great jazz beats through the album. The keys are absolutely superb when used, most notably on the aforementioned ”No Name”
and ”Song For Sarah”
. The strings are exceptional and are present on several occasions and help add to the overall mood of each piece. ”Switch Ambulance Trip”
employs the strings to add to the solemnity, and ”Person Most Likely To Enjoy The Taste Of Human Flesh”
utilizes the strings in an almost folk-ish manner, kicking another step of the quirky joy.
However great the instrumentation may be, the grand diversity between the tracks is what makes the album. No two songs share the same sound, which is first noticed between the first two tracks, “Skinflick Dress Rehearsal”
and ”If You Show Off The Milk, Who’s Gonna Buy The Cow?”
, the former being a moody slow-burner and the latter being an upbeat and jumpy turbo-charged blast. Though the two are almost completely different, their cohesiveness is surprisingly awesome. I would not hesitate to say that each track is more like a movement. Following the second track comes the title track, ”Easily Misunderstood”
, a bass-driven and mellow piece.
Another noteworthy aspect that is essential to all post rock bands is the incredibly well-executed climaxes. With some bands, your climax usually consists of the band kicking on distortion or banging on the instruments harder, whereas the climaxes on this album actually live up to the definition of the word.
1.the highest or most intense point in the development or resolution of something; culmination
It is as if you had just hit the turning point in your favorite novel. As in my favorite track off the album, ”Unimog”
, which begins with a slow and melancholy intro constructed of acoustic guitar harmonics and a majestic string section hits a point where it turns to a jumpy and almost jam-band style leap and rides it most of the way to the end. In ”No Name
,” the song builds up from a simple synth part and tribal drums into an uplifting explosive wall of sound. You must hear the sheer splendor yourself.
Long story short, The Samuel Jackson Five’s Easily Misunderstood
is a magnificent achievement in the world of instrumental rock. All instrumentation is worked to perfection. I cannot find a single flaw on the album. Decoymusic.com hails this as the #1 instrumental rock album of 2005 (Yeah, big feat. I know.), and it is not difficult to see why. It is a shame that a band as talented as these people could go so unnoticed. It is easily the most fun and accessible yet intelligent and beautiful post rock album I have heard to this date, and you can expect me to whore this album out excessively for the weeks to come.
If You Show Off The Milk, Who's Gonna Buy The Cow?
Song For Sarah
Michael Collins Autograph