Reduction in Drag, Increase in Quality
Seattle synth pop outfit Jupe Jupe released its first album, Invaders, little more than a year before this follow-up. Releasing back-to-back albums might not seem a good thing, considering that Invaders was quite a stylistically confused affair. However, the band has come up with the goods this time, as though it had been saving the great stuff for its sophomore album. As I said about Jupe Jupe in my Invaders review last year: “They have strong songs – they just have to deliver an album that has a consistent sound, pick an era and run with it.” Someone in the group is reading its press, because it appears that they zeroed in on that precise statement, and the band has become much more of an individualistic entity.
While Invaders had a clutch of great songs, it didn’t really know what it wanted to be. Reduction in Drag, sees the band throwing its influences into the proverbial blender and mashing the puree button. Clearly, Jupe Jupe has honed its sound, and the end result is an enjoyable blend of the Strokes, Simple Minds and Duran Duran, with a slight hint of ‘70s prog. Reduction in Drag is a more even-keeled affair, with catchy and unique songs. Singer My Young practically seethes with Interpol-esque evil on “Piranha”, “Suspicion” has an almost Roxy Music feel to it, and album highlight, “Stalker”, pings and pongs across an Atari soundscape with devious intent. There’s the odd misstep, such as the music box fragility of five-minute long ballad “The Fire Curtain”, which seems to be a bit out of place on an album chock full of fairly upbeat party anthems, but it isn’t an egregious backfire. “El Topo” is interesting in that it combines futuristic surf pop with foreign female vocal samples (are they Spanish or are they Japanese? – I can’t tell), but the effect is somewhat middling. Generally, things have a tendency to fall apart at the very end of the record. Did we really need a six-minute dance floor instrumental in the form of “The Raincoats of Cherbourg” to close out the disc? Still, doesn’t diminish the fact that this release is a lot stronger and more cohesive.
As with Invaders, the band isn’t really reinventing the wheel here, but it has gone much further in developing something that is more of an overall identity, which forces the band to slightly rise above its collective inspirations. Reduction in Drag is a much more enjoyable listen front to back than the album that preceded it. At the rate that Jupe Jupe is progressing, crafting music into something skin-tight and sleek, its next album – will it come out next year? – might be one for the ages.
// Notes from the Road
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