The James Cleaver Quintet
The 10 Stages of a Make-Up
11 January 2010
by Angie Louder
According to eye witness accounts, The James Cleaver Quintet‘s Jimmy Diego once threw his solid Fender Jazz bass 3 feet into the air, caught it with his face and broke his nose. Yeah, yeah things like that happen on stage, but what impresses me is that this kind of behaviour is typical for these guys.
Even better their stage names: Jimmy Diego, Jack Swagger, Maud E Licious and Alan Skarrington sound more like a band of gangsters with a predilection for Fantasy RPG games and the Sex Pistols, rather than a current experimental punk band. Based in Brighton, the JCQ are consistently compared to those bands that never quite fitted into a particular mold like the Blood Brothers and At The Drive-In. I’m also going to add to those comparisons and say I hear elements of Drive Like Jehu and some very brief Converge-esque moments. I know adding -esque to the end of a word doesn’t automatically make it a word, but it’s about time Converge-esque was born and added into the rock n’ roll lexicon.
The EP starts off with ‘I Do, You Do, We Do Voodoo’, a frenetic screaming ear-bombing of guitar wails. This leads into a jazzy, foot-stomping chorus – that’s just a sheep in wolves’ clothing though, because two seconds later it then goes back to pounding your face off. It’s good, but more of a prediction of what’s to come rather than the main event.
Next up, ‘Throne to the Lines’ basically sounds like this “crunch, crunch, spazz, melody, spazz, scream, punch your mum, oh look what a lovely chorus!” Out of all of the tracks this one has the heaviest riffs, while remaining the catchiest. There are moments in the verse that bring to mind Refused‘s The Shape of Punk to Come. Well, now this is awkward – I think I just gave away one of the holy grails of compliments. Not really much you can say after that, so moving on.
More straight-up rock than the other tracks, ‘Pinks and Blues’ has moments that I’m reminded of the Murder City Devils in the way the organ pops in and out while the song builds up only to break down into a heavy swarm of noise. ‘The Shame’ throws itself into epileptic thrash fits, but in between mouth-foaming outbursts it has those driving melodic elements that keep you wanting more. Favourite part of this is the bratty way Jack sings the chorus and its odd time signatures.
The fifth track ‘TNT’, what to say…what to say. Fuck, This is always so awkward, I hate these “it’s not you, it’s me, moments”, but I need to let this song down easy. ‘TNT’, I’m sort of disappointed in you. You’re good, but the blending of so many styles that you are usually so adept at comes off a bit choppy. It feels like I’m continually turning the dial through JCQ radio stations rather than listening to one song.
Lastly, the culmination of this journey takes us to the epic ‘Coming of Age’. At first the psychedelic synths in the intro have you think maybe some mistake has been made. Possibly Pink Floyd has infiltrated it’s way into your listening device? No, because 2 minutes and roughly 12 seconds later BOOM you receive a brutal right hook containing a five-fingered punch of guitar. The heaviness ends almost as quickly as it begins and a few moments later you’re left with a lo-fi 50’s style rambling outro reminiscent of the Black Lips. Brilliant.
Really JCQ, you confuse me. Your influences and style might sound a bit schizophrenic to those that haven’t heard you (yet), but it all blends so well into a beautiful fucking disaster that it leaves me either wanting to writhe on the floor or sit in silent reverence.
Sounds like: A good Jagerbomb: a shot of hardcore punk slammed into a pint full of thrashing experimental chaos with melodies that leave you wanting more until inevitably, it knocks you on your arse.
Top Tracks: Throne to the Lines, Pinks and Blues, The Shame
The James Cleaver Quintet – 10 Stages of a Make-Up tracklisting
I Do, You Do, We Do Voodoo
Throne To The Lines
Pinks And Blues
Coming of Age