Every once in a while an album comes along that can only be described as “massive”. Working for a Nuclear Free City’s double-disc “Jojo Burger Tempest” is one of those albums. Eighteen tracks that clock in at nearly an hour and a half but never feels cumbersome. Each track showcases an endless stream of ideas that have been carefully stitched together to complete a much larger idea. This is certainly an album about large ideas, with many of the tracks being continuations of previous tracks and a final track that is over a solid half an hour of idea after idea after idea pasted together into one gigantic medley. That final track is “The Jojo Burger Tempest”, the namesake track that is a summation of what the entire album is about.
The sheer originality and outright ingenuity present are something to be marveled at. There is just so much content to grab onto, yet the band doesn’t seem to be looking to change things up too drastically from track to track. The ideas are not wildly bounding from one thing to the next. They manage to come up with variations that fit within the parameters set forth in the song and they don’t leave, they only make things more and more interesting. There is always a new element added that seems to fit perfectly, that seems to be exactly what the song was missing up to that point and can propel the song to new heights without ever becoming too much.
I couldn’t see classifying this album as anything but prog-something. It’s not necessarily straight up prog-rock, I think that I would be more comfortable considering it as prog-electro/rock/shoegaze. There are elements of dreamy shoegaze that are ever present while at the same time merged with synth heavy dance pop. But there are also songs like “Low” that display the influence of mid-90s era Brit-pop as well as the hypnotic “Inokashira Park” that will leave listeners transfixed with its slow build of layered minimalism. Meanwhile “Buildings”, a stripped down mid-tempo acoustic gem with flighty vocals that speaks from a reverb drenched cathedral, is about as close as one can get to an acoustic guitar driven ballad. This isn’t to say that they are trying to cram as many genres together as possible for the sake of doing so, but rather their sound is so all encompassing that to ignore the effect of these influences on their music would be foolish.
As I said, I want to shy away from labeling this album as pure “prog” because usually what one expects from a “prog” band or a “prog” album are very segmented songs that are non-developmental, the kind of songs that display the musicians as all brain and no heart and this is certainly not the case with this album. Tracks like “B.A.R.R.Y.”, with its lush string arrangement and delay-drenched guitar, sound ethereal and surround the listener in their warm sound. The songs are firmly planted, for the most part, in standard forms. There are verses and choruses and hooks galore throughout. Each song has at least one memorable bit that, personally, had me coming back for more.
There is a common thread of crystal clear production and virtuosic musicality present throughout “Jojo Burger Tempest”. This could be considered as one of the binding elements from track to track along with the thumping bass, clean guitar and a plethora of synth sounds that range from adding crunch to the low end to lifting the songs up with bright arpeggios and lead lines that cut through everything else. The vocals are clearly taking a backseat to all of the instrumental and electronic wizardry that is present though we do get a bit of vocal harmony reminiscent of Caribou’s “Andorra”, Klaxons and The Birds on the lead single “Silent Times”. The fact that whenever vocals are present they are pushed far back and made nearly unintelligible by effects shows that they are a group that is truly focused on the music more so than the words.
The organization as far as track order and song styles really benefits the work as a whole. This really is album oriented music and a lot more can be taken away from experiencing the whole sequence of songs in a sitting. The final track stands out as nearly an album in itself with its seamless melding of tons and tons of musical ideas and elaborations carefully worked into a song that is far beyond pastiche, it actually ends up making complete sense and is the most enjoyable 30+ minute track that I have come across in a long time. One goes through quite a journey in the process of listening to that song, just as one goes through quite a journey listening to this album. This is a great piece of work that is very worthy of your attention.
Click below to hear/download “Silent Times”.