Every now and then, just as I'm slipping into a chronic state of musical ennui, an album comes along to rudely shake me out of my doldrums. The self-titled album by Jughead was just such a musical slap in the face.
When you consider the members of this new band it's no surprise. Ty Tabor, best known for his amazing guitar prowess as part of the legendary King's X, adds his astounding fret skills but in an unusual turn, only sings lead on two songs, although his frequent background harmonies are prominent. And who better to match Ty's impeccable technique except accomplished Jazz bassist Matt Bissonette who adds his impressive vocals to the project. Forming an ultra-solid rhythm section as only symbiotic siblings can, Greg Bissionette plays drums. Together these brothers have played for such luminaries as Joe Satriani, Santana, Steve Vai and David Lee Roth. Adding a tastefully restrained amount of keys is Derek Sherinian, formerly of Dream Theater. With all these progressive and technical credits one would think that the music would be equally esoteric, but one would be wrong. Infusing hints of Beatles and 70s arena rock with the best of today's modern sound, Jughead is quality rock music without pretension, destined to appeal to anyone willing to listen. I can really see this album going over well in Fort Wayne but it would take a station like WXKE (nudge, nudge) to play music not programmed by the radio illuminati.
Many of the songs fall into the "fun, fast guitar rock" category. "Halfway Home to Elvis", "Snow In Tahiti", "Be Like You" and the aptly named "Bullet Train" with it's rich vocal harmonies all satisfy your need to rock hard and fast with each song containing enough combustible energy to make the bedridden attempt the jitterbug. "Promise" is a continuation of Tabor's Safety solo album where he contemplates his broken marriage and a time before "feelings were stronger than a promise." Unlike Safety, this song is neither depressing nor self-indulgent, thanks to buzzing guitars, classic overdriven Hammond organ, and a rollicking rhythm. Capturing the same lonely feel as Zeppelin's "The Rain Song", "Waiting on the Son" contains a wonderfully fun and bouncy bass line along with some tantalizing vocal harmonies. Matt opens "Yesterday I Found Myself" with the lyrics "Yesterday I cried balloons / Rubber tears came out like water on the moon" before a crushing wall of guitars enter, dark, heavy and very reminiscent of classic King's X. If you weren't having fun yet, "Flowers" will most certainly make you smile. Opening with a zooming rhythm and group whistling, the verse contains a strong Spanish influence before charging into the big, bright, happy sing-along chorus of "Today's the day/ I'm on my way / I'm bringing flowers to the girl I love." The final track, "Paging Willie Mays" is Magical Mystery Tour- era Beatles meets Pink Floyd at a Foo Fighters concert with a sedate, hypnotic verse rudely pushed aside by a gruff wall of guitars, all adorned with cello and mellotron.
There's nothing startlingly new or innovative about Jughead's sound or songwriting structures, it's just eleven hyper-kinetic, mind-melting, huge sounding, colorful, uber-melodic rock/pop/power pop songs in the vein of Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots. Buy this album now!
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2002.