Timing Is Everything


Java / Capitol Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not often I'm part of a groundbreaking event - in this case, the debut release from Glen Ballard's Java Records. (In case you've been living under a rock for the past three years, Ballard is the producer behind Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill.) Apparently not satisfied working with musicians who can sell 15 million records, Ballard seems to have turned his attention to signing artists that don't have that kind of commercial draw... yet.

Jamie Block is one such artist. An underground sensation (his first album Lead Me Not Into Penn Station was a big hit on college radio), Block's combination of folk, rock and simple weirdness seems to be poised on the edge of greatness. Maybe that's why this album, Timing Is Everything, is so named.

If you're looking for an all-out folk or an all-out rock album, then you'd best be looking elsewhere at Borders. Block simply takes the walls dividing the two forms of music and knocks them down. The opening track "3rd Mall From The Sun" has enough elements of folk that can still be recognized, even though the overall sound has a harder edge than you might expect. It's a great way to start out the album, featuring crisp production work from Block and Mark Hutchins.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Block clearly has a sense of humor, and lets it shine in many places on Timing Is Everything. How else can you explain a glorious noise such as "I Used To Manage PM Dawn," a song that ridicules the seedy side of the music industry? If it weren't done tongue-in-cheek, such a song would seem to be venomous - this is where Block's style of delivery works to his advantage. Likewise, the all-out rocker "Rhinoceros"... aw, who am I kidding, I'm not sure what this song is about, but it's so good that I don't much care. (Can we say "potential single"?)

But just when you think that Timing Is Everything is about to settle into a comfortable groove, Block throws curveballs right at your head. His cover of "Catch A Falling Star" knocked me for a loop - and had me trying to remember when the last time I heard this song was. (Was it in a movie? A commercial?) It's a bizarre twist to the album, but not inapporpriate. And when you think that Block might not take anything seriously, he throws tracks like "Sick Of Life," "Queen Of 5th Street" and "The Pink House Must Burn" at you - and you'd better be ready to catch the messages in those songs.

The only real negative about Timing Is Everything is that it gets spotty at times. Tracks like "I Call Her Vicious" and "I-95" don't capture my attention the way that others like "Cigarettes, Prozac & Scotch" do - pity, 'cause the weak moments seem to be scattered throughout the album. Fortunately for Block, there aren't many moments like this, and the album overall keeps my interest. (Another complaint? The album's too short. So many artists pad weak albums with filler, making the stronger albums seem like they need more material to be complete.)

So, Timing Is Everything is enjoyable; this much we've decided on. Next challenge: Where is this album going to fit in the world of American radio? Well, no one seemed to know what to do with Beck a few years ago, and he's fit in quite nicely into his own niches. The same must happen for Block. First, push tracks like "3rd Mall From The Sun" on alternative radio, and push tracks like "Rhinoceros" on rock radio. Soon enough, you should get enough interest from both camps to create a superstar.

Timing Is Everything is the kind of album that you want to spend more time with in order to get its messages clearly, yet you always feel like you haven't spent enough time with it, no matter how many listens. Fortunately, it's such a good album that you can listen to it again and again.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Java / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.