Review Summary: A criminally underrated and superb party rock album from the 90's.
Jimi Haha had the right idea. The glaring problem is it arrived about 4 years too late.
In the mid to late 90’s, as post grunge one hit wonders came and went, some of the more successful and/or critically acclaimed bands of the era blended pop hooks with lighthearted funk, ska, and reggae to create stellar party music that was well received by most and sold truckloads of records. While Spacehog wondered what the hell happened after “In the Meantime” lost its radio clout, it’s hard to argue that the decade was anything but phenomenal from a success standpoint for bands like RHCP, Sublime, Sugar Ray, and 311. As the decade came to a close however, the musical scene changed dramatically with post grunge being replaced by the even more critically panned genre of nu metal, and critically lauded hipster garage/faux punk bands taking center stage over party led surf funk.
Jimmies Chicken Shack is the brainchild of said lead guitarist and vocalist Jimi Haha. Although a full band is present, the entire backing lineup has changed on every album. After receiving some indie cred on 1997’s “Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope,” Haha decided to blend several popular styles of music from the 90’s into a sprawling 13 track release that was clearly written with the intent to break through. Unfortunately, a combination of bad timing and poor record company backing led to a quick demise to an album that should have been huge. It’s a shame, because 1999’s “Bring Your Own Stereo” is a must have record.
At heart, “Bring Your Own Stereo” is a party record. The sonic elements would fit at home in a frat house, a Corona Commercial, or a stoner’s basement. Using primarily upbeat tempos and sing along structures, JCS weaves interchangeable elements of surf rock, funk metal, post grunge simplicity, poppy acoustics, and even shoegaze set atop a barrage of good time stoner anthems and quasi power ballads. The differing genre elements are scattered throughout the record with no clear order, but the intent is clear. JCS was not shooting for depth, and although they ironically achieved it in certain spots, the finished product most closely resembles the atmosphere of Sugar Ray infused with a set of teeth and a much needed shot of talent.
There are three types of tracks on this album, ranging from intentionally immature power chord infused sing along anthems to beach laced acoustic jams and finishing with yearning yet strongly effective balladry. The aforementioned slacker anthems are the most prevalent on the first part of the disc, and were clearly the intended highlights. Immature lyrics are fused with funk, jazz, and even ska mixed with power chords to set the intended theme of the album. First single “Do Right,” with its enormously simple power chord laced verses and sing along chorus, is the only well known cut. Second single “Trash” follows a similar formula, although instead of bitching about a controlling girlfriend, Haha is pleading for said girlfriend to tell her mother to cease referring to him as a piece of refuse. “Lazy Boy Dash” is another driving simplistic feel good anthem, only this time the protagonist is similar to Billy Joe in “Longview,” a fitting and hilarious ode to sloth like behavior. Finally, the horribly titled yet effective “Ooh” stands out as arguably the strongest rocking track present despite the fact the guitar riff is more simplistic than “Santa Monica.” As a whole, this bookend of the album effectively provides the intended rollicking good time experience.
Although the above mentioned party tracks are the intended center point, they are ultimately not the greatest strength. Amidst the slacker innuendo, JCS crafted four overwhelmingly strong mid tempo quasi ballads that add depth and vault the album from guilty pleasure to borderline essential. The difference in sound, structure, and theme is hugely dramatic. The strongest, “Waiting,” is the best song on the album and should have been the first single. An anthemic track about unrequited love, “Waiting” masterfully intertwines yearning acoustics with heavier, shout along refrains. “Fill in the Blank” and “Silence Again” follow a similar theme, although both are sonically heavier. Driven by a post grunge saturated riff, “Fill in the Blank” contains some of the better word play from the record with lines like “up close, beauty is far more scary,” and should have replaced “Trash” as single number two. “Silence Again” is simplistic yet passionate. The album closer, “30 Days” is the only real ballad. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a barely heard synth that sounds like ocean waves, this would hold up well on a Ben Harper or Jack Johnson album. 30 Days stands as one of the albums strongest tracks, and is the epitome of “chill” music.
Rounding out the album is a collection of average to above average tracks with only one filler. “Spiraling” and “String of Pearls” are mid tempo acoustic beach jams that mostly hit. “Pure” invokes elements of shoegaze with a riff reminiscent of early Smashing Pumpkins, and “Face It” is mostly an average post grunge sing along. “Let’s Get Flat” is the filler, and for full disclosure is one of the worst songs ever written, bad enough to drop the album rating a half point.
“Bring Your Own Stereo” is the type of album that most music aficionados have somewhere in their collection. The one that they thoroughly enjoy despite its relative obscurity, and the one they better yet relish introducing to other people. Successfully melding several elements of musical genres, this is party music and mainstream rock balladry done right, an impressive and incredibly rare task to accomplish, especially at the same time. In short, if this album had been distributed and promoted properly, and wasn’t introduced right as the musical landscape was changing, it would have been huge. Unless you are looking for an exceptional amount of depth, download this, grab a 12 pack, and wish you would have discovered this ten years ago.
Fill in the Blank
Lazy Boy Dash