Thursday, May 17, 2007
JPT Scare Band—Jamm Vapour (Kung Bomar Records)
This album arrived while I was sick with a head cold that wouldn’t budge. I’d spent most of the week at home in an anhedonic torpor, trying to kill time with movies and records, and finding myself unable to enjoy anything. Anyway, once the illness broke, I threw this album on and inhaled some recovery-hastening Jamm Vapour…and I was back on my feet again. The latest from Jeff, Paul, and Terry is a collection of newish recordings from 2001, solidly in the tradition of the classic JPT material from the 1970s (see Sleeping Sickness on Monster Records, or their self-released mix of oldies and newies, Past is Prologue). They laid this thing down live and dangerous in the basement, and while their sound might not be as dark and volatile as it once was, they’ve clearly still got the fire. The pics in the CD booklet are ample evidence of some serious middle-age mania at play here. The JPT modus operandi is pretty straightforward: write a really cool ’70s-style rock song and jam it out to wring the maximum amount of music and excitement out of it. Take it up, take it down, drop out, drop in, and sprinkle liberally with Terry Swope’s mad-as-a-hatter guitar work. The really joyous thing about the whole enterprise is how it so obviously comes naturally to them. Unlike so many ’70s-themed projects nowadays, these guys are the real deal. The six songs average around 9 minutes apiece. “Amazons” is a real mid-paced bruiser with an opening charge that reminds me of Crazy Horse at their meanest…though that notion evaporates the moment Swope lets fly, leaving old Neil in the dust. If anything he’s gotten even noisier and splatter-happy as the years have passed. Things take a bluesy turn on “Ramona,” which works through some time-honoured changes in a very satisfying manner. There’s some great bass playing on this one as Paul Grigsby puts on a clinic on how to play bass in a power trio. “Rainbow Bridge” is a more emotional number that reminds me a bit of early Rush, specifically Rutsey Rush and the song “Here Again.” In fact I’d like to make these guys honorary Canadians for their devotion to righteously unpretentious guitar rock, and not necessarily ’cause Terry’s vocals recall Rik Emmett at times. The album peaks at an appropriate point, right in the middle with “Right Mind,” which is a great song by any definition. Drop out all the crazy soloing and you’d still have a winner. The only point on the album where they come close to losing me is an off-the-cuff number called “Gelo Jam,” an 11-minute free-form quasi-raga recorded at the end of a long, long day that gets a little silly lyrically. The loopiness is understandable, but it’s one of those tunes where you had to be there, I suppose. I will say it’s well-placed as the penultimate number—a palate cleanser before all-out rocker “Hungry For Your Love.” And after this last burst of energy, there’s a definite funk hanging in the silent air. Is it sweat, or overheated amp tubes, or stale beer? Whatever that Jamm Vapour might be, it’s certainly been a gas.