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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Album Review - Joe and the Jungle: Broken Amps and Fuzz Boxes

Now and again we’ll receive an album from a band that doesn’t necessarily fit the “stoner rock” mold that Heavy Planet prides itself on making its primary focus. Depending on how far off the sludgy path the band wanders, we may or may not feature their music on this site. Consider this a disclaimer…Joe and the Jungle’s Broken Amps and Fuzz Boxes is by far the furthest I have strayed from the genre we know and love in my coverage of all that is doomy and gloomy. So if your only musical interest lies in down tuned, chugging guitars, slow as molasses riffing and guys with beards grown to their knees, then perhaps you should go ahead and skip ahead to the next blog post.

For those of you who don’t mind a little guitar wankery, a drum solo shoved smack in the middle of a song and a singer with the capability to do just that…sing (in addition to screaming his balls off), well then you’ve come to the right place. My friends, Joe and the Jungle are here to put some L.A. sleaze back into rock n roll. Coming at ya straight off the Sunset Strip by way of New York City, the band is led by Joe Reilly, who does a little bit of everything on this album…lead vocals, guitar on a few tracks, bass on a few others…hell, the guy even takes a turn on the drums on a couple of the songs. The Jungle features a revolving cast of musicians including Reilly’s primary cohort on the project, Brian Edwards, a multi-instrumentalist whose impact is noticeable in one way or another on every single track on Broken Amps and Fuzz Boxes. This guy plays piano, organ, harmonica, cowbell, trumpet, sings backup on pretty much every song and even takes over lead on one of them. To say he’s the yin to Reilly’s yang would be an understatement.

So by now you all must be thinking “yeah, yeah that’s all well and good, but if it isn’t stoner rock, then what the hell is it?” To that I’d say, imagine if you threw Guns n’ Roses, Cheap Trick and The Beatles into a blender and added a dash of The Sex Pistols for flavor…the resulting mess would be Joe and the Jungle. From the album's opener “Protester”, an up-tempo rocker with pounding drums, shredding guitar work and some fantastic organ…which, come to think of it, does bring to mind an element of stoner rock….to its closer “How Long Shall We Dance?”, a ballad that you might hear at an 8th grade dance, Fuzz Boxes is one helluva rock n roll ride.

According to the album notes, this thing is actually a rock opera of sorts, involving pretty much all the staples of a great rock n roll record…rebellion, love, death, the afterlife…it's all here. Highlights include the mellow, sing-along "Music Box in My Head", the punk rock explosion that is "Gina", complete with that devastating mid-song drum solo, and "1776" which would sound right at home in the arena rock heyday of the 1970's. Both "Solitary Confinement" and "Manchester" bring to mind the Beatles…and I mean the tripped out White Album Beatles, not that "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" bullshit. And just listen to the scathing attitude that's apparent on "Oil Revolution"…you can just see Reilly wearing a snarl as he screams "revolution…we don't have to take this shit".

Joe and the Jungle makes me think about what Velvet Revolver could have been if Scott Weiland wasn't such a candyass. Or maybe what it would have sounded like if GnR had dropped the cocaine in favor of dropping a little acid instead. These guys remind me of a time when rock music was a little dangerous and the musicians playing it tiptoed on the edge of disaster. Is Broken Amps and Fuzz Boxes stoner rock? No…but it's a damn good rock album that you need to check out.

Track Listing:

01 Protester
02 Special Place
03 Music Box in My Head
04 Gina
05 Solitary Confinement
06 1776
07 Oil Revolution
08 Hand of a Woman
09 Mourning Lullaby
10 Cry Little Girl
11 Manchester
12 How Long Shall We Dance?

Band Members:

Joe Reilly - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar (Music Box, How Long Shall We Dance), Bass (Protester, Special Place, 1776, Manchester, How Long Shall We Dance), Drums (Special Place, Manchester intro), Orchestral Arrangements
Brian Edwards - Piano, Organ, Harmonicas, Cowbell, Trumpet, Lead Vocals (1776), Backing Vocals
Martin Gustafsson - Lead Guitar
Brett Middleton - Drums (Music Box, Gina, Oil Revolution, Hand of a Woman, Mourning Lullaby, Cry Little Girl)
Tom Asvold - Drums (Protester, Solitary Confinement, 1776, Manchester, How Long Shall We Dance)
Joe Maisonave - Bass (Music Box, Gina, Hand of a Woman, Cry Little Girl)
Mikael Tillander Planefeldt - Bass (Oil Revolution, Mourning Lullaby)

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  1. kick ass album! it definitely ain't stoner rock but thats some serious rock n roll, you're right.

  2. Interesting. This is on my long list to review, but now that you have I guess I can move it to the 'just listen' category. Sometimes a bit of a mix in your rock is what you need


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