Review Summary: Don't let these jaguar pirates steal your treasure; these Blood Brothers don't deserve one bit of your treasure.
The Blood Brothers died way too early. After just five albums, the last of which was arguably the high point of their career, the band just fell apart. From this, we have two new projects, both not surprisingly fronted by one of the two vocalists found in the Blood Brothers; Past Lives featuring Jordan Blilie (and pretty much the rest of the Blood Brothers, minus a recent guitarist and plus an original guitarist), and Jaguar Love featuring Johnny Whitney and the guitarist as of the end of the band, Cody Votolato. With the addition of Jay Clark, Jaguar Love would flesh out its lineup and has now released its debut LP, Take Me to the Sea
. What is there to say about this new endeavor? Well…mostly that it’s a bunch of unlistenable crap.
What made the Blood Brothers initially tolerable was the fact that beneath the apparent madness, usually everything was tightly constructed and seemed to converge on points of explosive goodness. Jaguar Love seems to wander aimlessly throughout its glammy, punk influenced pop landscapes in search of the next odd time signature in which to insert a crazy hook. The entire record feels very unhinged, but it never pays off with any kind of real excitement or musical epiphany, and neither does it really stick in your head. Musically, it is vaguely interesting and Votolato certainly continues the strong musicianship he has shown over the years. The album doesn’t really stick to one sound for very long, and the constant sound changes and tempo upheavals will probably make “scene” kids across the country tremendously happy. However, it really just makes every song sound like a similar mess of noise without anything of substance to really hold it together.
Yes, it pretty much is a power pop album that has an attitude, exactly what everyone expected Johnny Whitney would want to make after Neon Blonde. How unfortunate it is then that the man who girls everywhere screamed for (for reasons ENTIRELY unknown to most of the male public) at live shows is the true undoing of this record. To put it bluntly, listening to over 40 minutes of Johnny Whitney sing by himself is like mixing two horrible extremes in two senses. Imagine hearing nails being scraped on a chalkboard, while being forced to watch paint dry. Whitney has run out of vocal tricks to impress us with, and now without anyone to play off of all of his faults as a singer are laid bare with nowhere to go. He rarely sings in pitch, and his voice is something that even the biggest fan will tell you is an “acquired taste”. What’s even worse is he attempts some ‘soulful’ singing on the track “Georgia”, and I can honestly say I felt embarrassment for the man for it.
What Take Me to the Sea
proves is that a unique, ever changing and technically proficient album can actually end up being really bad. It’s not bad in the sense its unredeemable, just in the sense that it fails to do what it wants to really, really hard. It’s not homogeneous in the fact that every song sounds the same, but that pretty much every song ends up doing the same things. It’s not disappointing in the sense we were all expecting something brilliant, but in the sense that we all thought that a pop album made by dudes from the Blood Brothers would at least
be cool to listen to. And while it might be cute for a play through, it is unfortunately nothing to get excited about.
We can only pray for a miraculous new Neon Blonde album. Or that Johnny Whitney just becomes a teacher or something.