How do you sum up a band like Jacobi Wichita? This line from the Thrust Music biography is typically attention grabbing: "Intense dedication mixed with incredible musical knowledge, as well as a strong desire to stand out from so many 'sheep-like' bands, is what Jacobi Wichita is all about". After an initial listen to the Connecticut post-punk's debut album Bonez Malone, you cannot disagree with the three points. Jacobi Wichita is clearly dedicated to being different and the band 'know' music. But...this approach to life and art does not always yield good results. A gargantuan out-pouring of emotions and sounds, a melting pot of textures, and countless twists and turns thread through the core of Bonez Malone.
The first half of the album is a glorious mess. Opener 'Hey, Hey, Hey...Take It Easy' is a great introduction to front man Brendan Rodriguez - part Mike Patton, part Chester Bennington, part Ian Watkins, part Conor Oberst. The music is thrown at you in waves of guitars, drums and vocals, unstructured and uncontrolled. Into the last minute, genuine melody makes way for a multitude of vocals to end. 'Belly Up' is a frantic explosion with aftershocks of "I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die...." repeated ad nauseam. The half way point is excellent, making way for a soaring last minute. From here, the songs veer off course musically. The obvious drug referencing 'There's No Business Like Snow Business' is a great song ruined by a lack of direction and some absurd musical choices. "This is why I'm thinking in colour schemes and punching walls to awaken my fingers" is gloriously graphic. Ironically 'Violets Aren't Blue, They're Violet' is the first sign that there are dark forces at work within Jacobi Wichita. Opening with the line "I'll make a milk carton out of you yet, my precious..." is certainly a cry for attention. The song is challenging stuff, a combination of horror imagery, machine gun drumming and soaring vocals. Apart from the fact that 'Gucci Girl' just does not sound right, there is some amazing guitar work from Ben Lopez. But the production is more Justin Timberlake than Coheed & Cambria and the vocals are all over the place. Unfortunately 'Bloody Pelvis' suffers the same fate.
The stand-out song is the slow moody hip-hop centre-piece of 'Mental Crown', an emotional but clumsy recount of a descent into drugs and subsequent escape, wrapped up as an anti-love song. It is the first time the lyrical skill of Jacobi Wichita is pushed to the front. "Don't strive to be perfect. A perfect world is too quiet" is followed by "Damn the day I found you. Take another look around then you'll know why". All this is set to a weird soundscape of vocals, from Jennifer Reyes' contribution to demonic vocoder-effected monologue. Even though it is more stripped down than most of the album, the song is still over-complicated with ideas and it is a departure from the 'usual sound'.
This makes way for the second half of the album, which, if you discount the appalling nonsense of the closer 'Jammin' On The One', is home to some of the best songs. 'Gullyhead' glides from delicate synth intro into hardcore and then back to melodic emo within the first minute. Then we get a Mars Volta guitar and vocal break leading to bongos and then more shouting. The last minute of this four minute prog-rock master class goes from stuttering vocal to choir to finish. Sublime. 'The Eye-Touch Of Brilliance' has more great guitar work from Ben Lopez who delivers everything from Jimmy Eat World to Metallica. These last songs show a real progression into more melodic song writing, while maintaining a dark menacing edge. 'Baby Gorilla Teeth' switches from melody to horror movie with effortless disregard for the listener - transporting them from safty to danger before there is a chance to escape. Completing the wonderful quartet in some style, 'I Only Draw Chairs' would not be out of place on a Coheed & Cambria album - an excellent love song full of dark imagery and goth-metal twists.
Ultimately Bonez Malone is an engaging, if frustrating, listen. This may have something to do with the chronology of the songs or maybe just the need to go against the trend of stacking all your best songs at the start. To begin with, just as you get hold of one particular groove or vibe, a song will dive off in a different direction, latching onto yet another idea or concept. The music may not be to everyone's taste every time but there is enough to grab your attention. The problem is, like the song writing, this attention span is limited to fragments at a time. While trying to stay vehemently genre-free, Jacobi Wichita has thrown just about everything into the music. From post-punk to screamo to hardcore and hip-hop, there is also Latin-soul, funk, blues and R&B. Every song on Bonez Malone plays like an entire album without breaks, such is the wealth of ideas and sounds. And Jacobi Wichita are a real 'ideas band' and these ideas really start to come together as the album progresses.
-- CS (for AltSounds.com)