Jason Forrest: Shamelessly Exciting

[5 October 2005]

By Justin Cober-Lake

It would be easy enough to throw on the new Jason Forrest record and just sit back and pick out the samples. Well, it wouldn’t be for me, because I’m not very good at the name-the-sample game. And anyway, that approach is all fine and good if you’re interested in sitting down with the other geeks and proving who’s the smartest of them all. If you just want to cock-rock-out, then you’re probably more interested in how the music sounds.

Jason Forrest has this technique, see, that’s more entertaining than it sounds. He grabs billions of those old classic rock songs—some you don’t know, and some that WZKR plays on an endlessly loop—and he bashes and smashes and generally mashes them until this whole new monsters of rock emerge. Last year he broke out the breaks and broke out (relatively speaking) with The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash with its massive block-waking blast of “10 Amazing Years”. So all the hip breakcore fans (whatever and whoever that and they are) are suddenly comfortable dropping Elton John like he’s hizzot, as they would say.

And no matter how much you might want to find his (or, for all I know your) tongue in his cheek, Jason Forrest’s bringing only genuine love for this underrespected music that he uses to build his tracks. It ranges from artistic to hilarious to awesome, and Forrest is way better at this than someone should be. Whether or not he succeeds depends on what you’re looking for.

Some tracks just depend archeological exploration. “My 36 Favorite Punk Songs” contains snippets of all the music described in its title. You want to count? Ready… Go! Okay, um, the Ramones! I got it—that’s absolutely “Blitzkrieg Bop”! And I think that’s the Clash, and I’m pretty sure there’s the Sex Pistols. You see how it goes. While the idea’s clever and the execution exceptional, the track isn’t just all that fun or interesting after a few listens.

Other tracks depending the shaking and banging, but don’t actually innovate. “Storming Blues Rock”, like the punk-based number before, puts a great talent on display, but this one offers more physical enjoyment from start to finish. You know, the kind where you’re not paying attention and the next thing you know your boss is asking you not to drum so loudly on your desk. The downside to the track lies in its suggestion (implicit, of course) that Forrest knows how to work a formula. The builds, the drum pick-ups, and the crashes are exactly where you’d expect them. If you’ve listened to some Forrest before, you know what to expect when.

That’s not a bad thing in itself—there’s something to be said for great pop that you can quickly catch on to and sing along with—but one of the great joys in Forrest’s work is the sensation provided by his use of misdirection. When a build changes into an unlikely sample before heading back to a build and an epic sound, it’s much more interesting than when a melange of almost recognizable snippets are placed on top a song-structure chart.

It’s hard to stay critical of Shamelessly Exciting, though, because it is just such an exuberant record. If the more raucous tracks don’t get you, the winking numbers like “Afternoon Delight” homage “Skyrocket Saturday” will. “War Photographer” brings ‘60s blues-rock guitar lines onto the contemporary dancefloor, then throws down sweet funk horns and a sampled vocal that perfectly creates the type of shifting Forrest does at his best without losing the groove.

Despite his work with instrumentals, Forrest is going to get the most attnetion for a vocal track on this album. “Nightclothes and Dreaming” isn’t the album’s best or most intriguing track, but the singing of country’s Laura Cantrell is going to draw ears. Cantrell offers her usual strong performance, but what’s noteworthy is that Forrest actually produces the song for her to sing over it. He foregoes his usual bombast for more traditional songcraft (okay, maybe not so traditional), and it works quite well.

He segues perfectly from that into the ‘70s prog opening of “Dust Never Settles” and he’s off again. These smooth transitions help make the album as much a 42-minute mix as an album of ten tracks, and it’s all the more enjoyable for it. Forrest’s own love for this music is infectious, and that—more than even the smooth segues or the where’s waldo snippets—serves as this record’s base.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/forrestjason-shamelessly/