And now, a rabbit hole shortcut into a long weekend.
Bay Area quartet The Jenny Thing are enjoying something of a musical mulligan. After forming at Berkeley in 1991, the band released three records and was clearly gaining momentum, when the realities of real-life began to impinge upon their dreams of musical stardom. So, they called it a day; going their separate ways in 1999.
Flashforward to five years ago, when all four original members again found themselves living in Northern California, and again, itching to play music. The resulting album, American Canyon, dropped last week, and I think it's fair to say they've shaken off the rust.
Not gonna lie. The first thing that struck me about this track was how high the bass was in the mix, which is reasonable, as it's a pretty sweet line. The second thing was the production values of video. This is not old Super-8's found in Grandma's attic pieced together with Scotch® tape.
And yes, I was legally obligated to throw the registered trademark doohickey in there.
Regardless, something about the tune, the bass and the lavish clip immediately tossed my gnarled neurons through a wormhole, and I ended up here.
You know, just swap Eilean for a 1970's Ford F100.
And that got me thinking...
If you were a teenage boy who was into music in the mid-80s, there were basically three bass players: Geddy Lee, Steve Harris and John Entwistle. Maybe Chris Squire if your parent's record collection dared venture into prog.
Why didn't we realize what a tremendous bassist Duran Duran's John Taylor was?
I was fortunate enough to see that band in a small club a couple years back, and was mesmerized by that guy's talent. But we didn't even want to admit to liking Duran Duran back then, unless we could parlay it into talking to a girl. I mean, there's a reason this book exists.
Duran Duran was a mystery to us, and we had no idea what to make of the New Romantic movement. Honestly, we didn't even know it was called that. To us, Simon, Nick and all those Taylors were just guys who clearly didn't buy their clothes at the mall. And their videos were so alien. Look at that yacht, Eilean, in the "Rio" video. In central Minnesota, boats weren't used for island hoping and courting exotic beauties, but rather for hauling in bass (the fish) and, once in a while, sneaking drugs into Canada.
But that bass (the instrument) sound was critical to the New Romantic sound, which was admitted populated by some very solid rhythm sections. Here's one that might be new to some of you, but Japan's Steve Jansen and Mick Karn made a great rhythm section, and Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) and Tin Drum (1981) are both fantastic records.
But bands like Japan, Spandau Ballet and Adam and The Ants weren't simply pulling these sounds from the ether, but rather "borrowing" them from other genres, and repurposing. Roxy Music is one of the great bands of all time, but since they can't be easily filed under any single genre, I don't think they ever received the acclaim they deserved. It bears mentioning that when they were finally welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, they were inducted by...wait for it...Duran Duran, who have been awaiting that call since 2007. Brian Eno was long gone by the time Siren dropped in 1975, but Paul Thompson and John Gustafson are tight as ticks.
And of course, not all roads lead to Bowie, just most of them. Young Americans is also from 1975, and the "Fame" groove, courtesy of Emir Kassan and Dennis Davis, is absolutely filthy. Filthy enough, in fact, to get the Thin White Duke on Soul Train.
So, where does that leave us in terms of The Jenny Thing? Definitely worth checking out. They're difficult to pigeonhole based on a single song, which is a good thing, right? A little too rough around the edges for Neo New Wave, but enough electronic flourishes to confound the traditional rock radio format. The other thing that strikes me is the arrangement, and how much they've managed to pack into 3'29" without it sounding unfocused, or worse, messy. Fans of A Perfect Circle might dig, and is it just me, or does the refrain have a hint of Trent Reznor to it?
Anyway, American Canyon is already calling to you via your preferred digital music pusher, but if you still like something tangible in exchange for your workin' dollar, there's also a mighty nice deluxe CD edition available.
And welcome to the birth of the New Western Romantic movement.