I have a real sort of love-hate relationship with music. In the past few years, most of the new music I've been exposed to has been distastefully mediocre and homogenized, and much of the old music I used to listen to has become dry and dull. I fill my days with podcasts (http://www.guttertrash.net), comedy, books, news and talk radio. Music can stay the fuck away. Stay away, Music! You're not welcome here. Not without handjobs and lollipops.
So, when invited to this blog and told it was to review old favorite albums long strayed, I thought to myself "Brian John Mitchell, what are you trying to get me into this time?! Goddammit!" I want no part of this. Why am I accepting the invite? What are you doing, fingerbrains? I was later told I didn't have to review an album, I could watch an old movie or read an old comic. But it was too late. I listened to something.
Here's my problem. I find all artists to be unreliable pretentious fucktards without any sense of fun or basic human decency, but I find musicians to be the absolute worst kind of artist, especially lyricists. Don't get me wrong - all my best friends are artists. They're also everything I just mentioned. Especially the musicians. Good lord, the musicians. I also think that any creative person who can become adept at their chosen outlet is an amazing human being with a fantastic capacity for mastering an instrument, be it brush or guitar. They're also just, y'know, pretentious scum. But man, lyricists (and poets) need to all go fuck themselves in the faces with a funstick.
But back when I listened to music heavily, around '95 and '96, I was always searching for something new and different. I had a couple of friends fully entrenched in the indie music scene at the time - brothers Tim and Joe - and still are to this day. We all worked together at a movie theater, I was finishing up high school and getting ready for art school. I would often work the popcorn popping shift - 8 straight hours in a tiny hot room, popping corn. Luckily there was a stereo, and I would listen to anything and everything. Tim let me borrow a CD from a band called Turtletoes. He claimed to have gone to Ohio University with the primary musician - John Hughes III. I don't know if Tim was lying. He may have been, but it didn't matter, because that album blew my mind. I made a copy and listened to that thing 'til the tape broke. It got me through popcorn popping, art school, my night-manager job at a hotel, shoveling snow in one of the worst winters I can remember, and moving into my own place. I finally got my own copy of the CD back in 2001. It's been a few years since I last heard it all the way through, and so I made it my first choice for this blog.
Self-released from Hughes' own Chicago based Hefty Records, Jackersville was the only album put out under the guise of Turtletoes. In case you missed the connection, Hughes is indeed the son of the legendary filmmaker behind such movies as Baby's Day Out and Curly Sue. The album is a fantastic fusion of jazz and indie rock. Every song is hook-filled and memorable, while all at the same time discordant and schizophrenic. But there's not a track that doesn't have some part that will stick in your head for days. The tracks tend to switch back and forth between jazzy instrumental pieces and rockin' indie/fusion songs. There's no denying that I love the instrumentals far more than the tracks with lyrics. They all have a fantastic rhythm and composition that still reaches into my dead black heart and massages it back to life and gives me chills. Strung together, the instrumentals could be the soundtrack from some sort of Neo-Noir film in the vein of Robert Altman and Elliot Gould's version of Phillip Marlowe.
That said, the "song" songs are also incredibly listenable, enjoyable and catchy. The lyrics all reek of the ridiculousness of a musician high on his own ego and pretension, in a sort of post-Beck way, though this album hit before Beck fully enjoyed mainstream popularity (Odelay was still a year away). Hughes is also not a fantastic singer by any means, but I've never believed that a good singing voice is necessary to making an effective performance. Hell, I love Lemmy.
I don't think I could ever go back to listening to this album as much as I did in 1996, but I still definitely love it as much as I did, if not more, due to the simple lack of music I find enjoyable nowadays. I would always welcome Jackersville into my CD player or Windows Media Player. The handjobs are little rougher nowadays, could use some lotion, but the lollipops are just as sweet.