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Friday, July 25, 2008

Leak of the Week: Jaguar Love, Take Me to the Sea

posted by on July 25 at 15:04 PM

Technically, this was the leak of last week, but I’ve struggled for a few days to articulate exactly how I feel about Jaguar Love’s debut record. Since they’re playing on the Neumo’s stage tomorrow, my time’s up.

I saw the trio once in concert, and at that point, I was willing to give the Blood Brothers/PGMG fusion the credit that most of the commenters weren’t. I looked at ‘em from the perspective of a pre-teen raised on emo-pop; through those eyes, Johnny Whitney’s high-pitched squeals and hand-hip struttin’ weren’t laughable, but all too appropriate. With more listens to this debut full-length, out in stores next month, I’ve become decidedly neutral.

Jaguar Love certainly delivers bombast, or at least Whitney does. The guy can make his voice go whatever direction he wants—almost chillingly so at the outset of “Jaguar Pirates,” as his opening “oh-OH” chirps are unworldly enough to put T-Pain out of biz. He’s less screams and more squeals this time, a transition he started as the Blood Brothers petered out, but his whine and falsetto can turn from wild to absolutely grating. Snoozer-ballad “Georgia” lets his voice off the leash, and its every miss is too painful. The band’s accompaniment, at its best, sounds like Hot Hot Heat colliding with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Antoine and Birdskull” is a plodding rocker underlined with buzzing organ, and the arrangement makes the most of Whitney’s voice in climactic bursts between the verses. But shameless soft-pop attempts like the aforementioned “Georgia” and the melodramatic “Bonetrees and a Broken Heart” drag the disc down, since Whitney’s not willing to calm down with the rest of his bandmates and actually try to sing.

For the most part, Whitney’s more memorable than the songs that he and his friends have cranked out. One exception bodes well. When the band eschews its punk origins and makes the most of its pop fascinations by injecting energy and tempo into closing track “My Organ Sounds Like,” they seem to finally cement their unique place in the guitar-rock universe. The jangly head-bobber doesn’t see the band trying any funny tricks, simply keeping up the energy and pace for Whitney to deliver his best falsetto-vocal performance of the album—hard to believe his nearly dreamy cries that “everything, it hur-rrts!”

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Posted by wat | July 25, 2008 3:21 PM

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