Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Weird Tales

Posted: 5 December 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Svart Records – 1st December 2017

James Wells

This is a tough one. There’s a lot to like on the third album from Jess and the Ancient Ones, which is pitched as ‘a magical mystery trip to the dark side of the sixties as seen through the eyes of modern-day occult rock musicians’. It has energy, for a start, and tunes, to boot. Hooks? Yep, no shortage of hooks, and groove in abundance. But there’s also something that’s rather nigglesome, and it’s not just the excessively try-hard ‘weird’ collage colver art.

Their aim, according to the accompanying blurb, was to go for ‘an organic and human approach and produced a very old fashioned album, 9 songs and 31 minutes, recorded and mixed together with their live sound engineer’.

The Horse and Other Weird Tales is very much an ‘old fashioned album’, and from the opening bars, it’s the skippy, trippy, noodly, doodly, bouncy Hammond organ that stands out in both the mix and the arrangements. The first track is called ‘Death is the Doors,’ and if you cut the first two words, you’ve pretty much got everything you need to know. And therein lies the niggle: it’s pitched being a hybrid of ‘groovy, heavy, psychedelic beat music’ ‘hard death rock’ and ‘occult head-exploding meltdown’. How this actually translates is that ‘The Horse and Other Weird Tales’ is a less than subtle confluence of The Doors and Janis Joplin with a bunch of obvious interview and documentary samples about LSD and opening the doors of perception slung in for good measure. Subtle, it isn’t, and nor is it particularly imaginative.

Song title like ‘Radio Aquarius’, ‘Return to Hallucinate’ and ‘(Here Comes) The Rainbow Mouth’ reflect the dippy, trippy, hippy leanings of the album as a whole. None of the songs in themselves are awful, and there’s an energy, sincerity, and passion which radiates from every bar. But none of this is in question: the question is, why not? It’s all about the bigger picture. Retro is fine within reason. But hen the past becomes the primary focus (really? A sing about, prefaced with a sample discussing The Catcher in the Rye?) is starts to feel all too much like reconstructionalist pastiche. That is to say, parody without the irony: The Horse and Other Weird Tales marks the point at which admiration swings toward tribute.

Yet for all the fullness of the passion with which I dislike it, objectively, The Horse and Other Weird Tales contains some catchy, memorable tunes and demonstrates that Jess and the Ancient Ones know how to navigate a melodic hook underpinned by a stompalong riff. It’s as ersatz as hell, but The Horse and Other Weird Tales succeeds in capturing the spirit of the era which inspired it.

AAA

Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Weird Tales

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s