Pondermental Wonderment in Hypocricity
Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
I didn’t have to stare at the title to The Jag’s latest release for too long before worrying myself whether or not I was about to get into something bloated and pretentious. Pondermental Wonderment in Hypocricity is a hard title for anyone to swallow, especially considering “hypocricity” is not an actual word. But while I may have some beef with the chosen title here I have an unbiased respect for the music contained beneath the jarring exterior. In this latest release, The Jag have made an album that pays homage to Berlin-era Bowie and the more psychedelic side of David Byrne without turning both influences into a phoned-in pastiche.
Prominent yet simple bass lines advance the direction of the eight-track release, while vocalist Aaron Tyler King turns in versatile performances that might make Bowie himself swoon. However there’s a surprising depth to the album that often allows The Jag to escape the comparisons to their art rock forebears in order to establish themselves as legitimate standalone successors.
Opening with “Free & Cheap” there’s a distinctive acid rock vibe that weaves in with King’s staccato, half-sung delivery to become a slow-burning composition that grows more hypnotic as it continues. The immediate follow-up “Nola Rollin” amps up the tempo to instill a much more direct glam rock sound complete with a guitar ripped straight from the sheet music of “Suffragette City.” This sort of back and forth sound persists throughout the short length of the album with the crown jewel of “Lucky Boy” representing the band here as the most inspired track of the bunch. The subtle intensity of the bass creeps along here as King once again uses his flexible vocal register to match the established moodiness.
The final three tracks vary in quality, none quite reaching the vaulted ceiling the previous compositions had crafted but still far from being inexcusable additions. “Track 666 (Money)” is a disjointed performance where the backing vocals irritate more than they impress, yet the electronic flourishes and more defined drumming chops of Scott Harper are at least able to add some interesting elements before the close. The final two, “Nantahala” and “Under”, are largely instrumental in scope with only a brief gasp of vocals being added toward the end of the latter. They don’t do much to impress in this regard but bring about a peaceful ending to an album that really doesn’t have to prove its value any further.