Jon James - 'Au Contraire' (Pound-o-Flesh) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Thursday, 19 August 2010 06:00

jonjamesaucontraire176pxI've just had a great idea. When the time comes for a Doctor Who revamp - who better to replace the current Doctor than Jon James? The show could be reconstructed along the lines of those great late-60s and early-70s shows like 'The Monkees', 'Scooby Doo' and 'The Banana Splits' - a little comedy and a little drama interspersed by musical numbers courtesy of the new all-singing Doctor.

 

Yes, it's true, I've got all caught up in Jon James' vaudevillian world of curios, carnivals, card sharps and top hats. And is it any wonder? Even the album has been divided up into easily digestible acts for my listening pleasure.

 

The prologue is 'Blue Balls' - a somewhat uncomfortable proposition to say the least for an album opener. And, if feeling uneasy don't come easy, then maybe the Twin Peaks tremolo of the guitar will put you in the mood. Relief is just around the corner as the album ejaculates into 'Happy Hour' which sees the band rocking out in a typically skewed manner. Think Utopia. Think XTC. I mean how many of us have played a Jew's Harp in our lives? And how many times have you heard it on a record? Well, speaking from personal experience, I've been playing the Jew's Harp all my life and I've only heard it on record a couple of times - 'Give It Away' by the Chili Peppers and this our current song.

 

Unusual instruments and sounds proliferate this record. Xylophones, toy glockenspiels, 'Cowboy Harmony' utilises - to a great effect - some retro Fuzz Face-like guitar tones while 'Cherrycake' employs some sort of Theremin.

 

Jon James has something of a snarling nasality to his voice which will immediately earn him some Bob Dylan comparisons. Coupled with the esoteric nature of the music I could conjure up a variation of the school yard game 'Pile On' where Francis Dunnery, Enuff Z'nuff and Ether all jump on top of Bob thereby knocking him to the floor and knocking the wind out of him at the same time. And who'd be sitting atop? That would be Jon James.

 

We've reached the intermission. 'Suck Face Abstract' has the weird distinction of sounding like The Kinks and Guns N' Roses at the same time. I'm not sure how he pulled that off. But that signals the end of Act I.

 

'Ballerina No. 1' starts Act II with a kind of 70s acoustic lounge jazz samba. Not entirely unlike Aimee Mann actually. Whilst all the songs on this album are pretty poptastic 'Crash Car Superstar' sticks its neck out as the toppermost of the poppermost. Album closer 'Introducing Mr. Tenacity' returns to The Kinks' territory but is otherwise wrapped up in a laid-back easy-listening 70s coating. Sweet.

 

As I listened to this album the first time I felt myself torn between the plus points of its power pop eclecticism verses the minus point of its vocal Dylanisms. Fortunately for me on subsequent plays the eclecticism seems to be winning the battle and Bob Dylan has taken such a beating that he's barely recognisable now. So an album that I thought I'd only listen to once is fast becoming one that I'll return to from time to time.

 

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