Under The Bed
Independent release, 2009
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/10/2009
Today's review, O Ye DV Faithful, is called Why We Actually Listen To The CDs Instead Of Just Reading The Promotional Material. See, I have to admit something: if all I had done was read the promotional flyer that came with the new release from Chicago's Josh And The Empty Pockets, I would have blown them off; it’s not a major selling point for me that their music is featured on several Nickelodeon shows. Believe it or not, though, I do try to listen to everything I'm sent, at least once -- and in this case, I'm very very glad I did. Because Under The Bed is tight, melodic, layered, harmony-drenched rock/pop, and one of the better new CDs I've heard this year.
JatEP started life out as a Buddy Holly And The Crickets tribute band, and the influence of clean, simple pop music with heavy harmony still shows. Their sound is reminiscent of The Muckrakers, Cheap Trick, or a more melodic Barenaked Ladies. It helps a whole lot that their songs have enough hooks to land Leviathan, and their musicianship is great, too. (Specific kudos to lead vocalist Josh Solomon, whose guitar playing is a joy to listen to. He can flick back and forth from acoustic to fuzz-laden electric without losing a beat.)
Under The Bed is deceptively basic at first; it’s only on repeated listenings that I realized that under the pop beats were some pretty incisive lyrics and a few neat turns of phrase. Songs like “Fall Right Now” (the first single, a humor-laced complaint about badly timed emotional entanglement) and “Freedom To Me” (which gets the Stephen Stills Award for best liberal political commentary in a three-minute rock song) are full of rich imagery and a gentle wit that contrasts well with JatEP’s straight-ahead style.
Besides the aforementioned “Fall Right Now” and “Freedom To Me,” I particularly liked the wordplay of “Missteps,” “Side Effects,” and “Monsters,” all of which are both great pop songs and lyrical tours-de-force.
Josh And The Empty Pockets have a bright future. They play intelligent, well-crafted pop/rock with substance that still manages to not get bogged down in its own importance. Buddy Holly would be proud.