When I can’t take a band seriously, it’s hard to have an opinion of them besides, “I can’t take them seriously.” Music that can’t be taken seriously is sort of like the Zoolander of the music world. It can be really good for fun music, but it’s still — Zoolanderish. Jim– (yes, this time the ellipsis is theirs), a band of youngsters from northern New York, walk quite close to the seriousness line.
On one hand, they are all very good musicians, and their jams can rival those of any established jamband. But they are not a jamband. Or maybe they are. If Phish were to make an album of all its live cross-genre covers like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Quinn The Eskimo,” et al, then maybe it would approach what Jim–‘s new album, Hollywood Tire, sounds like.
This being said, much like Phish in “Jiggy” mode, I genuinely believe that Jim– is completely aware of the humor involved in their music. Their first song, “Felony,” is about a guy who gets tricked by a minor into robbing an undisclosed location with an unloaded machine gun, only to find himself in a gunfight with the police after the girl has left with all the money. One of the later tracks, “Dead Girl,” is about, well, a dead girl — or rather, the process of making one dead. But it’s not Nine Inch Nails talking about killing girls, it’s Frank Zappa talking about killing girls.
So basically, if we buy into the light-hearted, lowbrow side of the music, it’s quite a fun ride. The music is energetic, the singer Sven Aurk has an exotic, high, raspy voice that recalls both Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano and Rick Danko, bass player of The Band. Most of their rock songs are funk-based, which is always fun, right?
And then there are the jewels of self acclaimed “hick-hop” that are injected into the album. “Nothing To See” sounds more like an ’80s R&B song than rap really, but it does have that “Just the Two of Us” feel. But even in the liner notes for “Never Gonna,” Aurk had to specify, “Here we are pretending to be authentic hip-hoppers again –” And pretend they do. One lyric is smoothly uttered, “To all my homies and peeps that’s along for the ride, just digging the vibe, on the side, getting high –“
In such context, even the sheer awfulness of songs that could be taken seriously just becomes hilarious, because we can see it as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the same drivel produced by people who are serious. In the liner notes to “Wandering Home,” the beginning reads, “Pretentious, melodramatic intro.” The song is bland, filled with cliches, and overall uninteresting. Yet the melodies themselves aren’t bad. When the Backstreet Boys sing the same song, they go platinum. Aurk sings, “I’m here without you, I’m here alone. Wondering about you, wandering home.” So it’s really bad on paper, but why not? It’s just like any of your favorite sappy love songs about abandonment, and one more drop in the ocean won’t hurt anyone.
From rock, to love ballads, to rap, to reggae (“Would Dave Mathews stop complaining if I didn’t drink the water?” Aurk wonders on “Reggae Song”), to funk, to a Kid Rock spoof (“Limprock”), Jim– walks halfway between legitimate music and Jimmy Fallon. And I like it. If they are trying to be serious, then I apologize, but they suck. But I somehow I really doubt that that’s the case. If the lyrics don’t sell you on the spoof theory, the liner notes should. The person who wrote the lyrics inserts comments everywhere, and most of them are self-humiliating, other-humiliating and quite funny.
If it’s music for an hour of beer pong you’re after, check Jim– out.