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Working for a Nuclear Free City

Jojo Burger Tempest

(Melodic; US: 12 Oct 2010; UK: 6 Sep 2010)

It’s easy to initially be put off by the particulars of Jojo Burger Tempest, the second album from Working for a Nuclear Free City. There is, for example, the fact that Jojo is a double album, a detail which often indicates a band struggled to trim the fat off the raw recording session material.  There’s also the fact that this album clocks in, all told, at just under an hour and a half—a run time longer than probably at least half of the movies playing at your local theatre, and another indicator of excess bagginess. And then there’s also the matter of the 33-minute song that is the second-disc: a track that is nearly impossible to consume in one listen straight through unless you’re reviewing an album.  But say that none of that phases you—that you’re ready to settle in and meet the demands of the album head on. Here, then, is what you’re likely to encounter.


You might be slightly frustrated by the opening duo of tunes, as they are the album’s least focused and scattered tracks. Album opener “Do a Stunt” plays like a scrambled table of contents, pulling in15-second bits from each track and stitching them together seemingly at random. “Silent Times” follows, and you’ll be tempted to go in search of some of your own silent time, somewhere far away from this song that sounds like it was cribbed from a 1990s high school band covering songs no one really cared about on the radio.  Work through this, though, plow through, and you’ll be rewarded—kind of.


The rest of disc one is, for better or worse, an ambitiously sprawling set of tracks.  On repeat listens, the most consistent theme throughout Jojo Burger Tempest is its inconsistency. For some bands, a lack of cohesion is fine, an album is simply a container for the many efforts to toss out into the digital marketplace one or two singles that lift off into that rarefied air space of critical mass popularity. For a band like Working for a Nuclear Free City, and on an album with particulars that seem to indicate it was intended to be received as an ‘Ambitious Statement of Art’, the inconsistency will do little more than turn you off after your failed search for a narrative or set of themes to keep you interested. Despite all the excess and unevenness, though, the album still has many moments deserving of your attention.


The album’s sound, if an hour and a half of music can be concisely summed up, is a post-rock pastiche with a fair amount of clever downtempo flourishes, dance-floor inspired bass thumps, and novel noise-rock bits of squeaky space sounds. You will also hear songs and song-segments like “Buildings”, a gorgeous acoustic whisper of a tune, with the lyrics layered deep into the mix, hard to hear in the same way that a dream is sometimes hard to remember right when you wake up. And, of course, we can’t forget the second disc’s 33-minute mega-track.


If the disc-one opener “Do a Stunt” is a scattered sampling of the album, then disc two’s “Jojo Burger Tempest” is a scattered sampling of everything that the album is not. In the press materials for the album, it’s mentioned that the band accumulated nearly 2800 song ideas over a 18-month recording period. It seems the band wanted none of this material to go to waste, as the guitarist Gary McLure says, “…an album should be a document of what a band has been doing over a certain period of time. And almost everything should be included. Like it or not.”  The sprawling “Jojo Burger Tempest”, much like the whole double album effort, is filled with moments that are obviously highlights, their strength and craftsmanship made all the more apparent by the too-hard-to-ignore shoddy and underdeveloped moments. Somewhere inside this massive double album is a concisely edited single disc effort. It’s unfortunate that the band passed along this task of editing to the listener.

Rating:

Sean Patrick Cooper


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