CD Review: Jaguar Love – Take Me To The Sea (Matador)

I was never much of a fan of Pretty Girls Make Graves. We’d seen them a couple of times and they were very good live but we never felt compelled to go out and buy their albums. Since their demise, however, the post-Pretty Girls musical projects are getting a pretty high hit rate at the Indie Credential. First there was The Cave Singers, featuring bass player Derek Fudesco with a backwoods country sound that’s a million miles away from the urgent emo rock of his previous band, and now we have Jaguar Love, formed by drummer Jay Clark with two members of Blood Brothers, who are much more in keeping with the spirit and sound of PGMG but, to these ears, much better.

Jaguar Love’s debut, Take Me To The Sea, is a densely packed, frenetically paced art-rock gem of an album that might take a while to get into but which rewards with repeated listens. Be warned, this album will not be for everyone thanks to the astonishing vocals of ex-Blood Brother Johnny Whitney which some people are going to find shrill and annoying. Not me though. The first few times I listened to the album I was suitably impressed with the singer’s vibrant Riot Grrrl-on-helium vocal style, evoking memories of Babes In Toyland’s Kat Bjelland, and it wasn’t until I read the release notes about a week later that I realised the singer was in possession of a pair of testicles. Or at least I think he is.

The album gets off to a cracking start, dispensing with perhaps its three most approachable tunes in the first three tracks. “Highways Of Gold” is a heady rush of guitars and ear-shredding vocals while “Bats Over The Pacific Ocean” is a tale of eviction and relocation that has perhaps the album’s most infectious melodies. Best of all, however, is “Jaguar Pirates” which opens with a Franz Ferdinand-esque guitar riff, courtesy of the excellent Cody Votolato, before morphing into an infectious glam disco stomper of the kind that Of Montreal did so well on their Hissing Fauna album of last year.

Even after this stellar opening there’s plenty on the rest of the album to recommend. The lush, soulful “Georgia” offers a welcome drop in tempo and gives way to the “Vagabond Ballroom” which, quite frankly, sounds like At The Drive-In sung by chipmunks, and which is actually pretty great. “The Man With The Plastic Suns” is a brilliant tale of gambling debts, mafia threats, murder and suicide in Las Vegas in which Whitney’s super-charged vocals ride along on a guitar and piano led glammy groove.

It can be an exhausting listen given the raw energy of Whitney’s vocals and the sometimes intense and complex nature of the songs but Take Me To The Sea is one of the great indie rock albums of 2008, something it might take you more than a few listens to realise.

Jaguar Love – Bats Over The Pacific Ocean

Jaguar Love – The Man With The Plastic Suns

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