One of the real problems with fuzzy rock music today is that it's been done so much. If a band isn't a carbon copy of one huge fuzzlord, it's a homage to another. Well, not The JCQ! Formerly The James Cleaver Quintet, the group have reformed slightly and abbreviated their name for the release of their new followup album to That Was Then, This is Now. Released June 17th on Hassle Records, Mechanical Young is a chaotic, groovy mutant rock record full of oomph and paff for those who love to dance, mosh and mouth lyrics on the bus.
Opening with Red Fang-esque drenched, octave-fuzzed guitars (think of their opus 'Wires') the record actually kicks straight in the opposite direction - instead of heading into stoner sludge, we're offered Mars Volta (think De-Loused) hysteria with super souly vocals.
‘Ghosts Diffuse’ works as the perfect album opener, with huge dynamic and shuttling force whilst completely encapsulating the group's sound in a thoroughly enjoyable 5 minutes. 'Plainview' is another power trip that pushes straight on without even letting a second pass by and 'Resurrection Revenue' is a fine excellent vocal-lead song displaying singer Jack's melodic-grunge flair. 'Aspidistra', much like the album opener displays a fine keyboard-heavy prog-vein most comparable to Mars Volta or Dredge but once again turns 45˚ into a Spanish dance party and further into a wall of sound; a real treat.
Mechanical Young's strength lies in the fine combination of riffs, quirks and stylish poppy delivery. For this, the most recent single 'Love's No Good' is a prime example (with a pretty great video to boot) of what really makes the The JCQ stand out in their new presentation, especially from their earlier work, so credit has to go to producers Henricsson and Lovstrom.
'No Kind of Man' (parts 1 + 2) make for some of the most engaging moments on the album, with signature + tempo changes, huge dynamics and strong lyrical hooks: "I'm a wicked man" , "I wanna see 'em / I wanna see 'em 6 feet underground." The two parts bookend a terrific piano piece on a warbly upright, while guitars shimmer gently above; it's relaxing and spacey - almost Bowie.
There are many moments in which one finds a familiar taste in Mechanical Young, but the key to a truly good album is to use these combined flavours to form something unique and confusingly delicious - like everyone's favourite ice cream company, Ben & Jerry's. So, are The JCQ like Ben & Jerry's, whipping up something special or are they more like McDonalds, plaguing the entire world with low-grade brain freeze and ultimately an awful feeling of resent? Well, as mentioned before musically we have an unusual combination of Red Fang meets Mars Volta, with occasional twinges of post-hardcore influences sneaking in and poppy licks. Vocally, we have some twinges of Cedric Bixler-Zavala (tuned an octave lower, thankfully) meets Nathan Willett, which might be an odd contrast but you'd have to hear it to believe it. As a once tried, tested and certified Ben & Jerry's expert I can happily approve Mechanical Young as top-grade musical ice-cream for your ear holes.
This record is powerful, unusual and fun - it's fuzzy, erratic but controlled and soulful. The band would be at home with the likes of Black Moth or Cut Yourself in Half on New Heavy Sounds, or even in a much larger family like Matador. The thing that The JCQ are usurping their influences on is this exact combination; there's literally something for everyone: you can sing along at the front as your body crushed into the barrier, get lost in a mosh-pit in the middle, or just sit in the stalls and have a great time enjoying the whole experience.
Next time these guys are in The Big Smoke I'll be there… with my Ben & Jerry's.