Wednesday, June 06, 2012

JESUS H. FOXX Endless Knocking

When you come across a seven-piece band in which the cornet player is also the glockenspiel player (step forward the superbly named Tallah Brash) you rightly suspect you are dealing with artier and orchestrated end of the Scottish indie-rock spectrum. However Jesus H. Foxx’s slippery rhythms gently push against crude pigeon-holing as the slew of band comparisons they attract shows. Their biog cites Pavement and Deerhoof for their formative years maturing into Architecture in Helsinki and Broken Social Scene. Then there is this wonderful quotation from Drowned In Sound: “amalgamates The Modern Lovers’ apathetic composure with the rhythmic deviancy of Pavement”. None of these are quite satisfactory because of subtle contradictions of Jesus H. Foxx. There is a rich, lush sound on debut “Endless Knocking” that would never pass muster as lo-fi but also sparse, disjointed passages and minimal, repeated lyrical chants and phrases. The songs have a precise, studied poise but also a loose-limbed rhythmic freedom. The band remain controlled rather than giving into ecstatic abandon but there are frenetic moments – the final section of ‘I’m Half The Man You Were’ - where the seven players almost sound as though they are gloriously battling to outdo each other.

So ‘The Wind Won’t Blow It All Away’ opens with a sawing fiddle and syncopated claps like Andrew Bird fronted by Stuart Staples’ introspective mumble – it’s a great contrast of jaunty and croaky minimalism. ‘Permanent Defeat’ and ‘This Is Not A Rental Car’ take this a step further with a jazzy white-boy soul sway, almost quite tropical with their taut rhythms and cooing female backing vocals. ‘Elegy For The Good’ mimics Talking Heads-cover-Al Green - spiritual soul meets angular alt-folk-rock with sparring guitars and glistening trumpet over a limber bass-line and loose, rolling drums.

Then the delicate climbing rhythms of ‘I’m Half The Man You Were’ incorporates slightly countrified steel guitar and violin, and bursts of summery, almost African jit guitar. Upon first listen I thought “Felt meets Tom Tom Club” - another of those unhelpful band comparisons but it shows just how elusive and shape-shifting this song and others are. It then finishes, naturally, with the previously referenced battling guitar wig-out.

As the band expanded from four- to seven-piece, they also expanded the time taken to record “Endless Knocking”- finishing it apparently only to mix and then re-record and re-mix it again. Like this patient two-and-a-half-year process, the album can feel a bit too cautious and precious at times. I want the band to let rip and scuzz it up more often. So a controlled, poised recommendation rather than a delirious one fittingly - but there’s still plenty to admire in the catchy, easy-going sophistication of Jesus H. Foxx.

Jesus H. Foxx Endless Knocking [BUY]

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