They’re baaaaaaaaack! Seattle’s Jupe Jupe keeps going, unleashing their third album, Crooked Kisses, upon the world. And, here’s the thing, they keep getting better. The reason for this is that the confused notion of their first two releases — are they prog or are they new wave? — has vanished, and Jupe Jupe is now strictly a group that conjures visions of ‘80s synth-pop along the lines of New Order. Or, put more forwardly, the prog influences have more or less completely disappeared. That they don’t have songs on Crooked Kisses as good as New Order is perhaps a minor failing, but the band seems determined to deliver the goods this time out and has constructed an album that feels like an album, start to finish, rather than a collection of assorted songs. And there’s plenty here to be gradually won over by. If there’s one thing that’s a takeaway with this LP, it’s that Jupe Jupe are really trying this time out, which is not to slight their previous releases, but there’s a real sense of putting everything on the line and urgency here that the group hasn’t really established previously. “We want more than we’ve got,” goes a line on one song, which is just proof of this. Even more, this album of 10 songs runs about 50 minutes, and there isn’t one bad song in the bunch.
On Crooked Kisses, singer My Young’s voice is full of drama and twisted despair, and the rest of the band provides muscle to the music. Whether it’s the jittery “Pieces of You” or (possibly the album’s best track) the atonal keyboards of “Never Ask Why” or the heavenly Pet Shop Boys soundalike “New Stars in the Sky”, there’s a great deal of focused musicianship on display. Crooked Kisses is an album that could easily be slipped into a club mix, but it’s also one for fans for retro bands like The Strokes. The whole package seems complete this time out, and that’s a cause for celebration for those who may have backed off Jupe Jupe for not knowing where they wanted to go with their sound. “We’ll get ours yet” is a line from “New Stars in the Sky” and there’s the impression that this might just be the relative commercial breakthrough that the band so brazenly craves here. If there’s anything that this album proves, it’s that the next time that Jupe Jupe come back around, their career trajectory is now such that they might just deliver a real contender for Album of the Year.