Jellyfish
Spilt Milk


5.0
classic

Review

by Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues USER (16 Reviews)
February 9th, 2018 | 25 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

The musical landscape at the beginning of 1993 was as diverse as it was chaotic- the grunge craze was reaching its peak and longtime underground mainstays like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and R.E.M. suddenly found themselves exploding in popularity. Hip-hop was finally coming into its own as a commercially viable genre, and ‘80s hard rock and new wave were both fizzling out even as bands like Tears for Fears and Guns n' Roses clung stubbornly to the charts. Trent Reznor was on the cusp of breaking industrial rock into the mainstream, and across the pond, the baggy and Madchester scenes were just beginning to morph into what would eventually become the short-lived cultural juggernaut that was Britpop.

Into this veritable cultural maelstrom wandered Jellyfish, a young group from San Francisco peddling a retro brand of pop rock, who looked like they had stumbled straight out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Their 1990 debut, Bellybutton, had largely flown under the radar despite charting a few singles. A combination of financial pressures, a stressful touring schedule, and lack of creative control drove both guitarist Jason Falkner and bassist Chris Manning to quit the band by 1992. Needless to say, the stakes were high for their second record. So, remaining members and primary songwriters Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning enlisted producers Albhy Galuten & Jack Joseph Puig, bassist Tim Smith, and a slew of session musicians, and spent 6 months crafting their second, and ultimately final, album.

That album was 1993's Spilt Milk, a record that seamlessly blended Manning's penchant for the lush vocal harmonies and detailed pop composition of bands like Queen and XTC with Sturmer's quick-witted, sardonic lyrical sensibility. The closest modern point of reference would probably be Fun.'s Aim and Ignite, with all the wide-eyed optimism replaced with wry observational humor. With the exception of gentle opener "Hush", there's not a track on here that doesn't hide some inventive turn of phrase or piercingly clever insight, whether it's describing the happy-go-lucky protagonist of "Sebrina, Paste and Plato" as a "love-a-tarian", or filling nearly every line of "He's My Best Friend" with sly innuendo. And despite employing a wider vocabulary than many of his contemporaries, Sturmer's writing still rolls off the tongue marvelously, never sounding forced or pretentious.

Sturmer may have been a more-than-competent lyricist, but these songs are so pretty on the surface that Spilt Milk could have easily skated by on style alone. Manning packs these songs to the brim with a huge variety of instruments- guitars, basses, keyboards, and drums, of course, but also accordions, banjos, french horns, harpsichords, violins, glockenspiels, woodwinds, and enough layers of vocal harmonies to make Jeff Lynne blush. These elements are all arranged expertly, and they give the album a rich sonic palette that feels both psychedelic and baroque in equal measure.

Still, at the end of the day, Sturmer and Manning were concerned first and foremost with using their talents to enhance the simple pleasures of pop music- giving sticky-sweet hooks and soaring melodies both lyrical depth and instrumental complexity. The falsetto "woo-hoo-hoo"s of "New Mistake" and the ecstatic chorus of "Sebrina, Paste and Plato" are the most obvious examples, but frankly almost every song on here is charming, memorable, and just plain fun.

Jellyfish had seemingly everything going for them on Spilt Milk, but unfortunately, the album was simply released in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an era where a new subgenre cropped up seemingly every other week, the music press had little interest in a band that seemingly only rehashed established styles, and the notoriously press-shy Sturmer had little interest in promoting the album to media outlets. Their whimsical, flower-children image didn't help matters either- it simply couldn't have been more out of place when the rock world was enthralled by the disheveled, flannel-and-denim look of Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. Spilt Milk under-performed commercially (although "The Ghost at #1" did become a minor hit on alternative radio stations), and after an arduous international tour in support of the album, Sturmer and Manning officially broke Jellyfish up due to increasing artistic friction between the two.

In the 25 years since Spilt Milk's release, Sturmer has embarked on a career as a composer for children's TV shows (You may be familiar with his work on Teen Titans, Ben 10, Fish Hooks, and The Looney Tunes Show), while Manning has released several solo albums and worked as a session and touring musician for many notable artists, including Beck, Interpol, and Blink-182. However, while the former band members were moving on to other endeavors, Jellyfish was slowly accruing a small but devoted posthumous following. Over the years, ‘90s obsessives and bargain-bin crawlers picked up odd copies of Spilt Milk or Bellybutton at thrift stores and secondhand at record shops, and proceeded to proselytize the band's virtues to anyone who would listen. Increasing demand for more Jellyfish music eventually led to a limited-edition deluxe reissue of both of their albums by Omnivore Records in 2015, and even a biography of the band the next year. Today, the band is considered by many to be one of power pop's best-kept secrets, and given the impeccable craftsmanship of albums like Spilt Milk, it certainly isn't hard to see why.



Recent reviews by this author
The Dwarves Come CleanThe Dwarves The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking
The Dwarves SugarfixBird Streets Bird Streets
The Dwarves Thank Heaven for Little GirlsThe Dwarves Blood, Guts, and Pussy
user ratings (111)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
undertakerpt (5)
...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
February 9th 2018


1619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pretty long review I guess, but this is one of my faves and it turns 25 today, so yeah.

Digging: Rolo Tomassi - Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2018


24233 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I haven't read the review yet, but I am giving you a pos just on principal. Love this album so hard, and it's so under repped.

Batareziz
February 9th 2018


201 Comments


Haven't listened to it yet, but it's on my to-do list. Have a pos, Kompys.

clavier
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2018


790 Comments


Loving the elegant tone of this review. Big pos

Digging: They Grieve - I Made My Sacrifice Accordingly

Kompys2000
February 9th 2018


1619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Heyyy thanks you guys (:



@Batareziz check it out ASAP, every track is gold

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2018


8769 Comments


yea, this is some smooth writing, Kompy.. have a pos, i'll check the album this afternoon..

Digging: Oxbow - The Narcotic Story

SitarHero
February 9th 2018


7008 Comments


Great review Kompy, and great album. I used to be really into Jellyfish and The Posies and this album was in heavy rotation for a long minute.

foxblood
February 9th 2018


9463 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great album

Friday13th
February 9th 2018


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, great album to just put on and soak in the production and upbeat melodies. It never struck me as 5.0, mainly just because the lyrics can be a bit wordy, but they definitely take the classic 60s pop sound into the 90s with style.

Kompys2000
February 9th 2018


1619 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Not sure if this'll be your cup of tea butch but you do dig XTC so it's worth a shot



@Friday I think the wordiness is a plus rather than a minus, they usually have a pretty good ring to them but also have a lot of meaning to dig into if you so choose

Friday13th
February 9th 2018


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Kompys I can see that. It's probably just my artificial genre barriers. My mind goes: psych pop? Simple, effective lyrics like Pet Sounds, Revolver and Oracle. Of course I like cryptic prog rock lyrics too.

JasonCarne
February 9th 2018


988 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best album, solid review.

AdolfChrist
February 10th 2018


17429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this shit rules.

Digging: Ad Nauseam - Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2018


11977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

jellyfish should have been huge

Digging: Vansire - Angel Youth

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2018


11977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

falkner is also the man

SitarHero
February 12th 2018


7008 Comments


"jellyfish should have been huge"
It's the great lie of the '90s. Back when we thought a power pop revival was going to be the next big thing.


MrSirLordGentleman
February 18th 2018


11886 Comments


omg this really does sound like Queen at some points

AdolfChrist
February 18th 2018


17429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Couldve been a 4.5, maybe even a 5, but there are some really retarded moments on here.

undertakerpt
June 18th 2018


1573 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I've waited 12 years on this site for someone to give this album a review deserving of its' merit, and what a fantastic review it is! You covered everything beautifully, well done sir!



To say this album changed my life is a tad cliche, but some crazy shit went down in my younger years, all thanks to this record haha. It is still one of my all time faves. What a record to go out on, I recommend it to anyone I can along with Scritti Politti's cupid and psyche as my favourite pop albums of all time.



Great work man, I'll be reading this a few times! POS

osmark86
June 18th 2018


7367 Comments


been meaning to check this album out. remember seeing some videos of these guys performing live and being impressed with the songwriting (and the singer's drumming style ^^)



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy