Jesus Jones Doubt
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Jesus Jones's Liquidizer was one of the most assured debuts of recent years, an exhilarating but solid presentation of a band who, though mindful of modern musical developments such as samplers, refused to allow their essential guitar-band nature to be swamped by keyboard technology. Unlike the Pop Will Eat Itselfs and Gaye Bykers that occupied similar post-modern territory, their raw rock attack was always in the service of shiny, user-friendly pop tunes. Here it seems, was an individual and imaginative alternative to the burgeoning baggy consensus. Jesus JonesSince then, a certain desperation seems to have crept into the Jones camp, discernible in their all-purpose hipness - the skateboards, the samplers, the Mary Chain guitar washes, the hooded paisley tops - and now in the variegated nature of their second album, which lacks the solidity and sense of unity of the debut. It's as if, wary of the ephemerality of pop trends, they've approached that difficult second album as a kind of portfolio of possible stylistic variations, ranging from the marginally baggy (Right Here, Right Now and International Bright Young Things, unsurprisingly their two most recent singles) to the slack-strung, legs-akimbo hard rockin' (Two And Two and the opening rush of Trust Me, which brandishes sturdy punk roots). Call it cowardice, call it insurance: the way is open for them to be regarded simultaneously as fashionable indie-dance fellows over here and post-punk hard rock types in America - which might not be that stupid, judging by the poor performance of contemporary Mancunians in the latter marketplace. Meanwhile, the only really all-round pop presence on the album belongs to Real Real Real. The sad part of this is that though Doubt - an apt title - has plenty of fine moments, it has effectively reduced the sense of purpose and direction of the debut to a series of textural flourishes. Chief among these is Mike Edwards' slurred delivery , so drenched in echo and ADT that at times it sounds as if it's running backward - an effect heightened on I'm Burning by reversing the attack and delay characteristics of the accompanying drum beats. The sampling that was such an integral part of the debut, however, is now so integrated it's barely noticeable: only Stripped features the kind of exhilarating sound-collage maelstrom that could stand muster as a Public Enemy backing track, and in truth it's the only track here with a substantial "What's that bloody row?" factor. But there are compensations, especially in the album's quieter moments. Nothing To Hold Me plays a deadpan background rap vocal against a low-key mood-music backdrop, the result being rather like conscience nagging at the back of the mind. The album's finale, Blissed, uses a gently rolling pulse and occasional electronic bleeps, swelling into a mist of ethereal synth-tones for the chorus. The effect is numbing, an abrupt suspension, as if suddenly forced to tread water. An appropriate end.