Monday, May 21, 2012

Jesus H. Foxx - Endless Knocking

There's a new release out by a band I'd gotten quite excited about several years ago, and then, admittedly, sort of forgotten about as time went on. As I recently learned, however, this is probably with reason; Edinburgh's Jesus H. Foxx first came to my attention after Matthew of Song, by Toad posted “This is Not a Rental Car,” initially a great demo that would become the B-side to “Tightt Ideas.” At the time, Matthew had some general blogger's thoughts on the band (as of March 2008: “I do have some reservations about these guys in the sense that at times their punchy, shouty indie-pop can seem just a little contrived”), but by 2009, he'd turned his blog into the namesake of a record label, and Jesus H. Foxx had become one of his bands. And despite the occasional mention of a full-length by the band, the debut's delay is, undoubtedly, what made me forget about them for a bit. As Matthew has stated, and as will presumably be quoted by countless other outlets:

"Since releasing the Matter EP on Song, by Toad Records in August 2009, their debut album has been, they have assured me, mere weeks away from completion. And two and a half years later, here it is.

The album was actually finished, once, in October 2010 but when the band listened to the final mixes for some reason it just didn’t excite them - sounding a bit over-worked and not really coming together as a complete album."

While the first version of “Rental Car” was what got me hooked, Michael Hunter's lazy vocals somehow a match for the song's percussive tribal dance, the version released in 2010 as a B-side was similar, though Hunter's sleepy vocals seemed to wake up a bit and sway every which way, as energetically as they could for being so restrained. And now, in 2012, the band has got a third version of the song, which sounds rushed through, and the original's marvelous drumming loses its place as a focal point to the glockenspiel. Which is fine, and of its time – Portland's style is a thing right now – but the song's become busy and quick and crowded, and it's lost its cool, I guess.

“Elegy for the Good Times,” meanwhile, suffers from the same sort of issue that “Rental Car” does, its rhythm now straightforward and less fluid than the original (think Steve Martin's Navin Johnson, tapping his feet to big band for the first time in The Jerk); as it kicks off, it almost seems more a demo than the original, easily assumed a demo if this recreated version is what was meant to be. Where it goes right, however, is a wonderful breakdown with the addition of violin and cornet, and an almost-jazz-inspired guitar solo.

It would be easy to get caught up in comparing all the tracks that have been redone to their original versions, but it would be unfair to the newer recordings to do so. The band, as the story goes, aimed to strip down their songs, which they felt were overworked, and yet, some of them come out sounding overworked after all, certainly not in their production value, but in the sense that the band seems to have sat with them for so long that they no longer seem excited to play them. But their harmonies are well-done, Hunter's voice is unmatched in coolness, and on the whole, the rest of the record fares quite well, if not beautifully. Its first single, “So Much Water,” doesn't do it justice, and that said, it'd be worthwhile to buy the record and listen for all the quirks that make it.

Purchase Endless Knocking.

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