With her guitar-based introspective songs, Jean Caffeine’s Idée Fixe gives the constant impression that you’ve heard this done better by other musicians. It’s not to say it is bad, or even to say Jean Caffeine isn’t sincere in her music. It’s just to say that nothing on Idée Fixe is saying much of anything.
Her fun coffeehouse feel is probably Caffeine’s greatest advantage. Her lack of self-awareness gives her music a delightful realness. The simple poetry of her words matches the truthful delivery in her singing voice. Her music is diverting and honest, but it lacks elements to make it exciting. You hear it, and then you forget it.
From the gentle sorrow of “It’s Not Nice Without You (When You’re Around)” to the exploratory “Kiss My Wound”, Caffeine repeatedly visits the same subjects. While many musicians tend to focus their songs around confusions over love, these common themes don’t do much to make Caffeine’s music stand apart. She is at her best on songs like “Word Junkie” and the appropriately country-tinged “Hand of Country” that deal with issues outside these subjects.
Songs like the ineffective “I’m Not Your Girlfriend” and the repetitive “Guilt” do absolute nothing except provide audio distractions. Idée Fixe is unfortunately plagued with songs such as these. And while they’re not bad enough to be memorable as such, they’re not good enough to be noteworthy, either, and that’s the overall impression that Idée Fixe leaves on the listener. It’s hard to recall a line of lyrics or a melody five minutes after the album has ended.
Jean Caffeine has enough talent to sustain the length of Idée Fixe, but that’s about it. Her music, while not derivative, still sounds much like things that have been done before. It may be enjoyable while it is playing, but once it’s over, there’s nothing left to remember it by.
// Notes from the Road
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