Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Every so often, I see a rock band that really looks like a rock band. That’s most certainly the case with JaggerMouth, almost to a comedic degree. Fully clad in dishevelled outfits of torn dresswear, this cigarette-toting, incredibly tattooed outfit looks like a bunch of guys that took a fashion cue from Angus Young. They took a musical cue, too, with a heavy blend of rock and roll infused with a garage-esque, underground feel.
For the purpose of this Independent Spotlight feature, we’re going to hop around what the band is currently offering on Reverb Nation. ‘Midnight Sun’ is the intense opener to that experience. There’s a pop sensibility to the act; they really embrace a vintage rock appeal that you’d align more closely with acts like AC/DC or the like. The music isn't overly memorable, though. The band’s production leaves a bit to be desired, at least, on ‘Midnight Sun.’ An overwhelming wall of sound is ill-mixed, thus, struggling to find a balance between the vocals and instrumentation. (And as a result, not highlighting either properly.)
About half the time, when I critique production quality, I get a distressed email from one party or another. Thus, it’s worth noting in the article that I review all Spotlight content in a studio with high-grade studio monitors. I’m not just plugging in some Apple earbuds and calling it a day while sipping a coffee at Starbucks. Since that’s the case, I found ‘Falling (Up The Stairs)’ dramatically more enjoyable. The lead vocalist is properly accentuated by the group this time around, and the backing composition has a much greater dynamic range and timbre than ‘Midnight Sun.’
Perhaps the most enjoyable tune of the bunch is ‘Buffalo Bones.’ The song has more personality than the rest, largely in part to the vocal delivery. You’ll notice early on that JaggerMouth toys with the pan on nearly all their mixes, to varying degrees of success. Translated in layman terms: listen with both headphones in. There’s a lot going on through the mix on both the left and the right side and listening in any sort of mono setup would be a misstep. (Assuming mono setups still exist? I suppose the one-eared headphone listener is mono...)
‘I Found Elvis At The Bottom Of A Beer Can’ is the last tune we’ll talk about. Frankly, it sounds like the rest, which brings me to my overarching concern with JaggerMouth: their predictability. It’s as if the group tries so hard to be badass and rock and roll, that they actually become a parody of that. Their getups look like a modern play on ‘Spinal Tap,’ and sometimes, the music feels the same way. It’s generic rock and roll without any differentiating factors. Even after listening to these songs through four or five times each, there is no way I could recognize them individually.
I bet JaggerMouth is a far more likable act in a live performance setting. They seem like fun dudes. They’re trying so hard to be rock and roll, though, that they’re missing any real heart or authenticity in their music. They’d be served well by buying some shirts with sleeves and getting down to the art of rock and roll: songwriting. (And yes, it is songwriting; a good rock song will always be a good exhibition of songwriting and composition.)