Every Now & Then by Jagwar Ma
Reviewed by Rolf Anderson
One must have a foundation of bad music in order to identify the good. It’s all reason, and it makes a great deal of sense. Where would we be if we could not determine the good from bad? As much as I wish there was only good music in existence, that surely isn’t true, and I have accepted that, and have been let down by many the artist I had expected much from. You must think I am opening like this to bash this album, quite to the contrary. Jagwar Ma’s introduction to me was several years ago, maybe a year after their first album came out. I was going through a madchester phase at the time (arguably I am still in that phase) and wanted something that connected me in modern times, to the greats of the genre in the UK (Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Charlatans, etc.). Their first album was my favorite madchester album made after the Happy Mondays stunning third LP “Pills ‘n’ Thrills (and bellyaches)”. I hate to name drop other bands, but it is necessary with a sound like this, as it clearly draws from its influences, which is wonderful (no Bob Dylan article would be complete without a Woody Guthrie comment, just saying). So now I’m a freshman in college, reviewing music for the campus radio station, and I heard the name Jagwar Ma be announced as a reviewable album. Wow, I didn’t even know there was a new one (serves me right), but this is excellent. My intro was filled with some angst due to the buzz around the album after I had done some reading, in fact, even my own cousin was quick to pan the album (him being a large fan of their first LP, “Howlin”). The criticism usually directed at the new album had me not feeling too great about the prospects of the new LP, so I went in, figuring I could add another sub 5/10 to my list of listens (everyone wants a nice balance, brings out the highs). I was completely wrong. I’m not going to drawl on about the criticism of this album, I don’t know if I could do that with music this idealistic, but “Every Now & Then” does trade the edgier, almost post punk sounds of “Howlin” for a more modern, alternative dance theme. That’s still completely unfair to the release it’s still a madchester album, but one that fits in with the music world in the latter half of the 2010s. I am very excited about this move to a more dance, electronic based effort because it is very similar to the route the Happy Mondays’ took after their first album (whose name is too long for me provide, or remember, so just google them) ultimately finding themselves along with Tony Wilson, the UK rave scene of the ’90s, and ecstasy, at the forefront of popular music. That’s what this album sounds like, but replace the timeframe with the , I have no clue who is managing Jagwar Ma, so I cannot comment if they have a genius like him behind their music. Oh man, an Aussie Tony Wilson, are we on the brink of an explosion in dance/rock fusion from that continent? I hope so. Now onto somewhat of a song-by-song stream of conscious review from me, while I listen to this (probably for the third time today). Intro is boring, but I can’t think of the last time an intro did not bore me (probably was Interpol’s untitled intro on their first). It segues well into the next song however, which is nice. The first true song, “Say What You Feel” starts me wondering where the talk of dance is coming from, this totally sounds like their last effort. This is hazy, stoned, makes me picture myself on the beaches of Australia. Now, Madchester, at least to me, wouldn’t have been even nearly as great if it didn’t have the songwriting qualities of its leaders (Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays). However, I have never felt that either of the members of Jagwar Ma can claim to be amongst these leaders, until I think I hear Gabriel Winterfield say “God has no place in this room”, whoa. I’m stunned, I thought I was the only one who remembered Shaun Ryder’s incredible commentary on religion from the Happy Monday’s first album (“You see that Jesus is a c***/And never helped you with a thing that you do, or you done”) I quickly must look this up. Unfortunately, I’m wrong, it’s in fact “Pride has no place in this room”, which is probably a sign that I go to too many live concerts, whatever. Nonetheless, I really dig this first song, even if it isn’t dance. That’s what I’m hearing on the second song “Loose Ends”, which features a soaring chorus of the album title. Percussion here is excellent, it almost does a better job of sounding like the Stone Roses then they do. The layering that is introduced on this track is a testament to the modern generation, and what is possible through technology now, what was not possible when Ryder was riding the world in 1990, is now very easy. The song closes off sounding very acid house influenced, which is great. I was having a conversation with some friends on whether reminiscing past generations pop-culture was degenerate or not. I don’t care, this is too much fun, even if it does sound a lot like what 808 State would sound like had they begun a few years ago. The next song, “Give Me a Reason”, keeps pushing the bar higher for me. I bet I look really stupid, half dancing, in my dorm chair with my headphones on. That’s what this album sets out to do though, and it’s brilliant. The rest of the album sounds much like what I have said so far, which is great, but no killer lyrics appear (unfortunately, that will probably be one of the biggest complaints from me here). “Ordinary” is another awesome song that feels much more like their last album than it is given credit for. The breadwinner of the album is “O B 1”, which fits into the album right around where “Step On” fit into Pills ‘n’ Thrills. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a mix of this the next time I go to a rave, but it still is rock enough where I am drawn to it like kids to molly before the concert begins. Now whereas the rest of Pills ‘n’ Thrills after Step On is just musical equivalents to the headaches (or bellyaches) after the concert, the rest of Every Now & Then keeps the party going, even though it doesn’t reach the heights of O B 1. And that’s fine, I usually leave around 2am anyway, wouldn’t want to miss church the next day.
7.5/10 (probably would’ve been 8.5+ if these guys could compose lyrics)
FCC Violations: None, unfortunately 🙁 madchester should be vulgar
Recommended if you like: Happy Mondays, Stone Roses
Favorite Tracks: 2, 4, 5, 7