Jaga Jazzist
One-Armed Bandit


3.5
great

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
January 26th, 2010 | 44 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One-Armed Bandit is a smart album for smart people, but in making the most technically proficient album you're likely to hear in 2010, Jaga Jazzist lose some of the immediacy that made them so lovable on What We Must.

To understand the content of One-Armed Bandit, one must first comprehend what exactly preceded it. On What We Must, Jaga Jazzist created some of the most exciting and gorgeous instrumental music this side of post rock. There was something beautifully spontaneous and heartwarming in the album’s atmosphere; horns textured the sounds with a soft and pillowed bed. Brilliant ideas sounded as if they’d been stumbled upon unwittingly and thrillingly after late night struggles to find some ever-elusive missing element that would take Jaga Jazzist’s undeniable talent to surreal heights. And What We Must had a bevy of such missing elements, each song containing a magnificent hook that Jaga Jazzist used to buttress their tower of virtuosity. For example, the reason a song like “All We Know Is Tonight” opens up so stunningly over time is that once the initial infatuation with the yearning trumpet line fades, one realizes a masterful foundation that keeps the song fascinating and stubbornly enduring.

On One-Armed Bandit, Jaga Jazzist emerge a different beast; sonically the same, but instead of aiming for stars and bliss they deliver something surprisingly close to snarky and sardonic. One-Armed Bandit’s press release plays up two key elements of the recording process. One: Jaga Jazzist approached the album with their tongues a little more firmly in their cheeks, making what one band member described as “Zappa influenced, humorous prog rock,” and Two: they wrote it down. Bandit marks the first time Jaga Jazzist have decided to physically compose their music on charts, which allows for the record to simultaneously showcase Jaga Jazzist parodying their influences in homage while highlighting just how brilliant and talented they are. One-Armed Bandit is nothing if not technically astounding. Jaga Jazzist open the record on the attack with their compositionally masterful title track, a driving blend of the groovy and the avant-garde. However, as the record chugs on, listening to the band quote Steve Reich in tracks like “Toccata” or laugh at their ability to be ridiculous with “Prognissekongen” leaves the impression that One-Armed Bandit is frustratingly inorganic, a product of theories and experiments instead of inspiration.

Between What We Must and One-Armed Bandit, it sounds as though Jaga Jazzist elected to try to show off how awesome they really are and in doing so lost the spontaneity and honesty that made them endearing four years ago. This sounds like an amateur criticism (This generally boils down to “The songs just aren’t that catchy, man”), but understand: the catchiness was intrinsic to What We Must’s striking success. Without it, One-Armed Bandit tends to simply exist, giving us paper reasons to care without aural ones. Yes, Bandit is as proficient and as smart a record as you’re likely to hear this year, but rarely does it engulf you as thoroughly as Jaga Jazzist have proven capable of doing in their past. In Bandit’s homogeny, there is no shame in unconsciously losing focus, because the band places its faith in its compositional wizardry. They know they have the impressive skills and the impressive charts to make certain of the music’s quality, and the sly nods to prog and minimalism referred to in the press release sound like the band doing it for the sake of doing it. Bandit is a smart album made for smart people, and something that garnered them critical acclaim in the past is lost. So yes, One-Armed Bandit is a good record. But Jaga Jazzist can do better.



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user ratings (114)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

100 reviews, it's been fun sputnik ;-*

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Waior
January 26th 2010


11461 Comments


holy 100 reviews, musicofficial! review's awesome, happy centennial

the sardonic/snarkiness of this sounds more appealing than the preceding glory of jaga jazzist (a matter of taste, simply) but i'll check both of them out just to be certain



Digging: Hey Rosetta! - Second Sight

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I tried to not get into specifics too much when talking about this album. I've found when I've tried to break down instrumental songs in the past i get redundant and vague. This is more just my general impression.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


6001 Comments


haven't listened to this yet but i agree with everything you said about what we must in the review so we'll see

oh and congrats on 100, its gonna be years til im anywhere near that

Digging: Danny Brown - XXX

Skimaskcheck
January 26th 2010


2360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice one man! Pretty much agree whole-heartedly with this review, congrats on 100 too.

robin
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


4249 Comments


congratulations adderz, still unsure as to whether to get this or not since i doubt i'll appreciate it all that much. what we must is great though so maybe. i could do with some post rock anyway

Prophet178
January 26th 2010


6397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

SEND TRANSMISSION FROM THE ONE-ARMED BANDIT

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I dunno man I dunno.

When you talk about context, it's important to note the albums that preceded What We Must as well. This album sounds a lot more like A Livingroom Hush than anything else, although it is certainly its own beast. Taking all four albums into consideration, you can't really expect them to do the same thing twice.

While I agree that this album lacks that spontaneity that made What We Must so classic, it's not something to expect, really. And I find the melodies extremely catchy. "One-Armed Bandit" has been stuck in my head for days.

I'll stop before I write a whole counter-review in the comment.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was really interested in hearing what you thought of the album Tyler. And I'd be interested in reading a counter review lol. And though I don't want them to do the same things twice, I feel like What We Must and this "sound" more similar than A Living Room Hush and this, which makes the comparison between the two more inevitable and obvious

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


6171 Comments


Good review - congrats on 100.

Definitely gonna check this out.

cfbassist
January 26th 2010


331 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

while what we must was more like viewing a city from a distance at night in the winter (sparkling lights, calm,peaceful moving, quiet) this album is like being in the actual city, it's busy, layered with sounds, and constantly changing


idk which i like more at the moment

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

100! *Fireworks*

but I disagree with you opinion on this album. It seems like a natural progression from What We Must, though I'm unsure of which I like more, this seems like it needs a lot of listens to really understand. They sound more like a nu-jazz band then a post-rock band on this. Also Toccata is the fucking bomb.

ziroth
January 26th 2010


1252 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Happy 100th. Cool album.

Greggers
January 26th 2010


2375 Comments


Congrats mate

foreverendeared
January 26th 2010


14678 Comments


still haven't delved into these guys' work....

Tulannical
January 26th 2010


2051 Comments


It's great, but disappointing at the same time. I agree with the rating.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2010


23911 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

What We Must rules, I hope this is better than the review says it is...

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

Taxt
January 26th 2010


666 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree with most of your points, but I would still rate it a bit higher.


Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

tulannical just summed up my review in case you guys tl;dr the review

jredmond
January 26th 2010


214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is really, really cool. All the slot machine references are sick, but I agree that What We Must is definitely a better record.



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