Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Endless Jags - Sell The Banquet

   I've blathered on and on about accessibility in the past, but I feel there's merit to it. Accessibility is a term more than likely scoffed at by the underground music world, simply because it defines the concept of selling out. While some take risks stylistically, many are content to play a tried and true form of music that gives a quicker sense of gratification to its audience. This is an idea that shouldn't be mocked, rather, applauded. Like that hit song from the movie Hustle And Flow, it's hard out here for a pimp, or rather, for a musician (Or group of musicians, rather). Many wish to make a living doing what they do on stage, and who can blame them for trying to do it in a fashion that gets them there faster? With Endless Jags album, Sell The Banquet, the group tries to slick things up a bit in this regards. 

   Endless Jags are an alternative rock band, first and foremost, but they have an unmistakable varied approach to all their songs that put them all over the place comparison wise. That really comes out as their defining strength, ensuring things never get stagnant.  "Surfer", the second track on the album, plays out like a Strokes song, though less low-fi. The jangly guitar playfully mixes with the never obtrusive drumming to complete a song that really stands out as their potential 'Single' on the album. "Seersucker" also draws comparison to another favorite band of mine, this time in the form of The Walkmen. From the vocals to the tinny guitar line, everything hear sounds like a Walkmen clone. If it's intentional, I'll still forgive them, because even making a track that can compare with an act like that deserves a pass in the judgement section. 

   "Decameron", while being the shortest song on the album, displays the strongest overall effect. The bass takes center stage here, never going over the top in its spotlight, opting to work alongside the rest of the pieces to ensure the track stays catchy despite the time constraint and repetitious nature of its main verse. "Hexer", "The Loop" and "Boxcutter" all bring very strong additions to the album, particularly "Hexer", which cracks in at 6 minutes but never feels like it (Not to say long songs can't be great, but I'm a fan of the 2 1/2-3 minute track myself). It certainly stands out as the most 'Alternative' and feels like some long lost Hold Steady tune, slinging some distorted guitars our way that never go too overboard to make us feel like they're trying too hard to be commercially aggressive. And "Fifty Grand" pounds out a nifty ditty, placing high-pitched, but always melodic dueling guitar parts over the pacing drums. Not to go all comparative again, but it feels like a track Tokyo Police Club might have made. 

   "Ready To Die" has a subtle emo quality to it that doesn't make it feel at home on the album. While "Ready To Die" is serviceable, it just feels lost thematically. While being constructed and performed well, when things go all over the place as much as they do on Sell The Banquet, it'd be nice to at least have all the pieces mesh well overall. "Next Summer On The Ice" and "The Great Resister" get lost on the album, taking a backseat to the others due to their general lack of enthusiasm. It's not to say they were made to feel that way, but there's a general lethargy in these two that don't match the other songs on the albums energy or bravado. 

   Though I certainly nit-picked these guys with a string of cross-references, Endless Jags really took me by surprise. I'm sure the majority of the comparisons are coincidental, and the fact their songs can stand up to being associated with bands like those is a testament to their skill-set and craft as musicians. While a few of the tracks don't work, the majority do, and although their pallet is sometimes a bit too varied to complete and overall sound, it mostly doesn't matter, since these guys know how to make a great song. I just hope they can find the success they're looking for doing so.

- Shane

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