So many musicians in their careers would dream of being able to write one acclaimed, beautiful song by which they could live off; enabling them to compose and create from that day on whatever they wish. No pressure, no money worries, no desire to be noticed – just inventing the music they desire. Most listeners won’t look back into the catalogue of the artist, and simply admire from a distance.
For Gary Jules it would be his second album upon which this would occur, with the beautifully solemn Mad World
, the unlikely Tears for Fears cover later forced into the skull of every radio-listening human alive. It was used for the ‘cult classic’ Donnie Darko and immediately became almost a theme for the world, despite the gloomy tone that would put off most from seeing it as an addictive, constant listen. After the song stole charts, he went back to his un-noticed self – albeit with the freedom he needed.
Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets
goes deeper than you might think, however. The ambient piano and violin collaboration on Mad World
is exchanged for, acoustic guitars, banjos and other fairly ‘rustic’ instruments.
Does this mean an avid one-time listener would be put off by the acoustics of this album? This seems entirely dependent on how you are seeing the album. If one were to compare the aspects of Mad World
to the extremely short Lucky
, we would see conflicts instrumentally; the sounds of the latter string based predominately, with a more ‘open’ sound due to the folk-ish, speedy banjo playing. The tone however, stands similar in these songs. Cynicism of Mad World
is mirrored with Lucky
’s lyrics ‘You can’t save me from myself…You’re lucky if you save yourself
’ as simplistic and emphatically successful as its epic accompaniment.
Vocally, Jules can represent a number of emotions, aside from this cynicism. Even throughout the dark lyrics, his voice can carry hope, uncertainty, even an essence of odd amusement. The consistency is set straight here, songs like Patchwork G
allowing his voice to shine to the sound of the instruments set behind him. Evidently the melodies are arranged with his voice in mind – the fragile acoustic guitar of The Princess of Hollywood Way
supplying the atmosphere for Jules’s voice to do the explaining.
Indeed, with the concept of narrating leaned upon with this album, America is a major nostalgic issue within the songs. Not only is a sense of accepted failure understood though The Princess of Hollywood Way
, but Jules’s upbeat opinions of Los Angeles are chanted (with the help of distinctive backing vocals) throughout Dtla
. Indeed, many of the songs seem to be produced with the aim of outlining a setting. This is not the only topic that holds the album’s interest however, songs such as Barstool
reflecting a biography of an obvious alcohol-induced lifestyle. Pills
also, with its ironically cheery instrumental work (namely due to the string work) speaks of loose society dilemmas in ways Mad World
does not. These songs have substance and characters – a more personal side of the album.
Perhaps one of the interesting things about the album is that Jules is not forcing bias into many of his story-based songs. He may cite opinion within his lyric, but generally lyrically this album is more suggestive than definite; what is one meant to think if happy music is played to remorseful singing? More so, when Jules speaks of personal journeys such as within Umbilical Town
, it is ours to interpret.
Interestingly the album will travel through various and many emotions; a beginning of discontentedness, towards a sense of acceptance, with hope, humbleness and impatience referred to briefly. However that is an issue to be seen with Jules’s second album: problems faced are done vaguely so, moving on and ranging at unbalanced speeds. Essentially this prevents the album from developing into something as hailed as one would think from glimpsing Mad World
So it will occur that this album will generally go by unnoticed aside from the famous song known so well. To incorporate the lingering cynicism that Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets
fulfils consistently, very few will look into an album pleasantly surprising if strangely obscure.