Take Me to the Sea
If I had to sum this album up in six words without mentioning any of the parties involved or their previous outfits I’d simply write: Surrealist Pop Punk Meets Hardcore Glam. Of course, that doesn’t really even begin to make sense. Good thing that we don’t have those kind of constraints here.
The right way to describe Jaguar Love would probably be to start with the Blood Brothers, a pioneering indie-hardcore act that split not long ago after delivering a fantastic final album, Young Machetes. Jaguar Love is two parts Blood Brothers, in the form of vocalist Johnny Whitney and guitarist Cody Votolato and one part Jay Clark, formerly of Pretty Girls Make Graves (for whom he played guitar; he’s on drums for this venture).
Anyone familiar with the Brothers is well aware of Whitney’s distinctive voice — a hysterical sort of prepubescent high-pitched nasal squeal that somehow manages to be both blood-curdling and tuneful at the same time. Combine that with eery surrealist lyrical imagery (often involving human organs, things changing into other things, and strange or enormously proportioned animals) and you’ve got a handle on some of the constants that fuel this equation.
But although they’re related, Jaguar Love isn’t a direct descendant of the Blood Brothers, nor is it of PGMG. Although Whitney’s voice may still be the single most noticeable element here, Take Me to the Sea is a very different (but still fantastical and enormous) animal.
The musicianship showcased on their debut full-length is truly accomplished, and dares to cast a wide net over a variety of different influences. Gone are the sharper edges of the Blood Brothers’ frequent spazz-outs; instead the latent pop tendencies have been pronounced and infused with PGMG’s brand of jangly indie and a number of other influences as varied as post-rock, glam, and even dance and doo-wop. Whitney’s voice somehow manages to work in turn with each of these styles but is unsurprisingly toned down a bit, the sharper more volatile edges stripped out to make room for more crooning. The overall disposition seems a bit more sunny and maybe a bit less, err, apocalyptic. It is, at times, downright poppy and tuneful.
The opening track, “Highways of Gold” demonstrates this well and sets the pace for the album; it’s one of its most straight-forward and accessible tracks. But it’s the really the risky departures that make Jaguar Love turn heads, such as the gorgeous southern fried girl group gem “Georgia.” Other standout tracks feature the inclusion of the kind of murky prog churned out by the Mars Volta (“Vagabond Ballroom”) and even soulful breakdowns vaguely reminiscent of classic doo-wop (“Humans Evolve Into Skyscrapers”). But no matter what influence they’re yanking on, it’s integrated into an overall aesthetic that is uniquely their own.
Take Me to the Sea is a lot of fun, in a loud delirious poppy (and often campy) kind of way. This is one of the best of the year so far, and certainly one of the year’s biggest risks.
Jaguar Love: takebacktheradworld.com