Review Summary: Jennifer B Careful What You Wish For
Jockstrap is the duo of Taylor Skye and Georgia Ellery (Black Country, New Road) and their debut I Love You Jennifer B
is one of the most shambolically disjointed capital-X ‘perimental pop records on which I have wearied my ears this or any year. The duo deal in an arsenal of sounds comprising any and all of dour acoustic guitars, an armada of retro drum tones, glum e-piano, languorous strings, umpteen glitching synth-squeals and a steadfast refusal to engage with anything approaching structural focus, all backed with just enough reverb and too little resonance. Armed as such, they don’t so much challenge the definition of [art][pop] (delete one) as much as they squat outside its traditional borders, in territory where it could
be reinvented as anything at all. Nine times out of ten, this simply translates into sheer weightless nothingness.
I Love You Jennifer B
’s tediums are many and its flourishes are too overbearing to offer reasonable placation. Opener “Neon” is a Frankenstein’s monster of mismatched palettes, replete with a loud
indie-tinged culmination that drops one of the album’s best hooks out of (literally) nowhere and packs up as soon as this has vacuumed up the preceding two minutes twenty-five seconds of faff from memory; “Greatest Hits” is an uncanny facsimile of running Tipp-Ex over a later day Stereolab vinyl and overscoring it with a champion round of horny hairbrush karaoke; “What’s It All About” recalls the deadest air of the baroque slog Spellling freshly repatented last year; “Lancaster Court” is the kind of anaemic ghost-folk that God surely blasts on the daily in tepid torment to purgatory-bound agnostics; “Glasgow” nods heavily to Joni Mitchell’s “California” with a queer twist, the intrigue of which is lost in an arrangement that might as well have been compiled from field recordings of Zelda mishaps; centrepiece “Concrete Over Water” spends six eye-glazing minutes in vaguely danceable orbit of a mangled synth motif comprised of whatever arbitrary notespam Skye and Ellery no doubt spent their golden years at Guildhall chipping away at. The developments of these tracks are bold and arresting by design - as Skye puts it, "I want people to not have to try incredibly hard to listen to music… it’s quite nice to not be too subtle when [the music is] not asking to be too subtle.” The outcome is very much the fleeting thunder of talented musicians devastatingly confident in the strength of their wilfully ~chaotic~ songwriting gimmicks.
Some parts of the record do crystallise into something a little more forceful. The section of manic acappella that closes “Angst” is at once the most satisfying and infuriating point here, in large due to its intertext: A lot’s gonna change…
, fluster-croons Ellery, her inflection winking slyly at the eponymous opener of Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising
, only for her following line to go the extra mile and interpolate that album title with a level of near-provocative unsubtlety for those unlucky enough to geddit
. You can practically hear their sighs in realtime; it’s a refreshing moment of tangibility for a record so thanklessly amorphous. The following “Debra” goes one up and delivers an actual highlight, with an unexpectedly cogent and potentially original trifecta of heavy beats, microtonal synths, and probably-disconcerting e-Lolita roleplay (yes) in Ellery’s refrain. Wish I could tell you what I wished for
- quite. It’s the first track that commands serious momentum, though the closer “50/50” isn’t too shabby either. This one wisely saves the record’s most wayward production flex for last in a bombardment of glitched-out techno that invokes the sickest possible union twixt Laurel Halo and Fuck Buttons (a playlist inspiration I fully intend on following up). Its novelty burns off by the halfway mark, but there’s a strong sense that here, at least, was a direction worth doubling down on. Kudos. The rest of the record is an over-calculated mess that inherits all of its Windmill cousins’ penchant for juggling ideas seemingly destined to remain forever airbound, suspended in ephemeral notions of formalism and needlessly isolated from notions of songwriting, presentation and development that have any real space outside of the most bubble-wrapped art school chambers (let alone the potential for worthwhile live performances). I Love You…
is a case study in misrealised talent; don’t hold your breath for Jennifers C thru Z.