Review Summary: A fantastic debut EP from the obscure DC band who never really fit in to anyone's sound and are perfectly content with that.
Catchy hooks, witty phrases, and memorable melodies all make pop music. People want something to hum along to and enjoy without really having to focus. Maybe they want to dance to it. The perfect pop song needs incredible versatility. In order to achieve success, some artists force these hooks into their music, but that is just the problem. They force the hooks, therefore contradicting the entire point of what makes pop music catchy. Luckily, for Jukebox the Ghost, they force nothing. Sporting balloons in almost every promo picture possible, the band appears to be all about fun. Despite having backgrounds in music as far apart as jam rock and classical, this DC-based trio focuses in on one set sound and explores every facet of that sound in 20 short minutes.
Jukebox the Ghost, however, is not the typical guitar rock trio. Rather than using guitar, bass, and drums, they use piano, guitar, and drums, with the piano providing any bass sound that they might need. This sparse, treble-heavy instrumentation is imperative to their sound, allowing them to write climaxes and bigger moments much easier by simply adding some left hand to the piano. Pianist and vocalist Ben Thornewill has a background in classical and jazz, so he possesses fantastic piano versatility and virtuosity. He also sings lead vocals, a cheerful tenor who sounds like Gavin Hayes from dredg on happy pills. Good Day
begins with a piano line that sounds like The Fray’s How to Save a Life
in double time with much more energy. The song really has three main melodic ideas, with Thornewill getting in as many syllables as possible while still keeping a melody in his voice, but the band presents every idea in so many different styles, from the simple piano led style to an organ to huge, pounding chords to energetic guitar strumming. Eventually, the main ideas converge into one phrase, while all blended into a catchy, enjoyable, and cohesive song.
Where Good Day
flowed endlessly, Beady Eyes on the Horizon
takes a different approach, building from a smaller idea and expanding into the full sound presented on the opening track. It begins with a distant, AM radio effect with just guitar and vocals, but drums and piano are quick to join in at a slower, laid-back tempo with sparse accents. Throughout the song, the band grows to a climax of fast piano runs, a sixteenth note drum beat, and guitar chord accompaniment. Lyrically, Thornewill quickly establishes the apocalyptic theme with the line “blow your little planet to smithereens.” Depicting God looking down at the planet angrily and looking to destroy it while slyly referencing the Book of Revelations, the lyrics blend religious allusions with playful, simple lyrics. Hold It In
clearly depicts this lyrical style, masterfully using the title in as many ways as possible and spinning clever metaphors while keeping everything as simple as bluntly saying, “She might know that I like her.” With a groove similar to that of My Sharona but not nearly as cheesy, Hold It In
may be the most playful song on the EP.
Jukebox the Ghost’s EP is simply just a preview of coming attractions, as they plan to use most of these songs and other songs on their upcoming full length set to release later in 2007. This short 20-minute sample shows the band’s energy that certainly transfers into their live show and lifestyle. Their music is thoroughly fun and enjoyable, and even if the lyrics get a bit too simplistic sometimes, there is always a clear point to everything going on and even in the whirling mess of classical, jazz, indie pop, and whatever the band decides to throw in, everything sounds completely natural and original, like it was meant to be.