Jigsaw Seen – Bananas Foster

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Vibro-Phonic)

 

www.vibro-phonic.com

 

 

Please
allow me to re-introduce you to the act you’ve known for all these years. Not
really, of course. Unless you have a terminal weak spot for the polished
baroque-pop filtered through a glass darkly of the Jigsaw Seen, a stripped-down
combo that doesn’t give two fucks about what anybody else is playing these
days. If you aren’t familiar with the Jigsaw Seen, that’s your problem not theirs.
They’ve put out so many albums, mini-albums, singles and EPs, I lost count
about five years ago. 

 

With
a permanent core consisting of career dog-walker/evil-choirboy vocalist Dennis
Davison and surgically brilliant guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Lea
(along with whoever else they can cajole into the studio), Jigsaw Seen has been
surviving in Los Angeles
for over two decades strictly on their own terms. Remember, this is a city that
hasn’t had an NFL franchise since 1995 and nobody really seems to care. If pro
football is irrelevant here, what chance does the Jigsaw Seen have? More than
you’d think.

 

For
some time, Davison and Lea seemed to be toying with the idea of assuming the
mantle left behind by the late Arthur Lee. Not that new album Bananas Foster (Vibro-Phonic) sounds
much like Love’s Forever Changes. But
this is music that hits you right between the ears, much like Love’s 1968
classic. The craftsman’s attention to detail is easy to see in both works. As
for the sonic DNA detectable in Bananas
Foster
, the raspy wheeze of the mellotron and the Chamberlin, both vintage
synths made famous by under-appreciated late British Invasion stars the Moody
Blues, are all over the album. Yet, sometimes its focus is as blurry as Janet
Leigh’s brief recollection of Norman Bates’ mother.

 

It’s
the inspired stroke of squeezing still-vibrant paint from ancient tubes used to
create the Rolling Stones’ 1966 masterpiece, Aftermath, that really brightens the color palette here. Exotic
marimba, played by Stones’ odd-man-out Brian Jones on the misogynist’s national
anthem, “Under My Thumb,” sounds more tropical than sexist on
“Fruitbasket Upset.”

 

There
isn’t anything quite as unnerving on the new album as “My Name Is
Tom,” Jigsaw’s 1991 raga-rock tale of a Peeping Tom rapist, or
“Fiddlesticks,” their gruesome 2000 rap sheet for Wisconsin
serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. Not to say the subject matter here is
exactly mundane.

 

“Cave
Canem” (Latin for “beware of the dog”) adapts the chivalrous
devotional stance of the Stones’ “Lady Jane” with an unexpectedly
mournful layer of melodica applied as a skim-coat. Another type of canine lurks
in the bushes on “Melancholy Morning,” a song that clinically details
what Winston Churchill used to call “the old black dog” of
depression. Rather than complaining about the malady that Davison often refers
to as “the grey fog,” he seems to almost embrace his daily dose of
despair. And, no, “Crazylegs” isn’t a tribute to legendary L.A. Rams
running back, Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch. Rather, it’s a name, warbles
Davison, that he’s given to his cancer. Maybe to beat it, much like in
ju-jitsu, by using its own force against it.

 

As
a longtime fan and friend of the band, I think I’ve heard everything these guys
have ever released, no mean feat. It’s taken the Jigsaw Seen more than 20
years, but with Bananas Foster, as
the old pop song goes, they’ve finished their lifelong spiritual walkabout
“out of the commonplace into the rare.” This is their best album
ever.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Choreography
Killed The Cat,” “Melancholy Morning,” “Crazy Legs” JUD
COST

 

 

 

 

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