Surf the web, fellow traveler. Hang ten on the information super-tsunami. Google yourself like all the other yahoos that roam these vistas. Check up-to-the minute financial News (By the way, have you noticed that the Dow can’t make up its mind lately? But, in the end, is the Dow really The Way Of Life it is touted to be? Have you read The Dow of Poo?), or just check the weather. But surf long and surf well, and before long, you will find yourself wiped out—like a tired man with the runs—on the gravely shores of the official Web Site for a Band called Dummy Jar. Navigate to the Site’s home page and discover three pieces of information; a pun, a name, and a hubris-inflated hot-air balloon of a declaration:
“Change. It’s the only thing that makes cents.”
We will rock your fuckin’ ass off (exclamation point)
The pun is corny; one might expect to find a similar statement printed on a second-hand shop coffee mug. The name could mean anything but is generally in line with the kind of self-referential stupidity that became trendy in the late seventies and experienced a second-wave in the mid nineties. The declaration—and yes, all of us here at yourband.info’s reviewer pit got a chuckle from the parenthetical, spelled out punctuation mark…after all, we are rarely permitted to see the light of day and our sensitivities to humor have been severely disabled by prolonged exposure to Bazooka Joe comics—sets a pretty high bar. One might be reminded by this proclamation of the J. Geils Band’s 1976 live masterpiece “Blow Your Face Out”, an album that does exactly what it says by a band that was, at the time, fully qualified to do so.
Could a band called Dummy Jar really rock my ass—not to mention my fuckin’ ass—off? How many times has my ass, fuckin’ or not, been effectively rocked off anyway? There was the time when I was five and my mom dragged me to a Grass Roots reunion show….or the time that I went to see Run DMC, expecting nothing and returning home fundamentally changed…the times when I was forced to sit down and listen to Primus, Ornette Coleman, Motorhead, Half Japanese, Mountain, Sun Ra, The Kingsmen, The MC5…. Does Dummy Jar have the same power to inspire such a profound and visceral reaction in an aging, neurotic, jaded rock n’ roll fan such as myself?
But what is it that Dummy Jar Does? To the music, I say (exclamation point) The company brass at yourband.info has once again fitted me out sumptuously, with links to the above mentioned official website, the band’s Facebook page, their downloadable latest “This is a Demo”, and an expense account that covers my research, disguise changes, safe-house deposits, and entertainment, with enough money left over for a pretty darn fancy cup of coffee. But this is an album review, so the rest of my Dummy Jar adventure can be saved until such time as the police report is made public….besides, my attorney has advised me to keep a tight lip.
“This is a Demo” is the title…self referential, perhaps self deprecating, perhaps an attempt at a savvy undersell. Indeed, the production quality is a step up from what one might expect from your standard demo…perhaps it even goes a little too heavy on the polish, as moments of real Rock n’ Roll aggression are frequently defused by a hand at the mixing board which seems eager to hide them behind the melodies of a vocalist who seems to have talent, even training, but still seems to be looking for his muse.
The first track is worth the price of admission “Round the Bend” begins with a fuzzy keyboard riff that reminds one of the title track from Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”. When the rest of the band joins in, and the vocalist gives up the variety of derivative rock n’ roll postures that will be presented later in the album in favor of a primal yelp, one is reminded of the opening track of Slayer’s “Hell Awaits”, though without the crazy guitar theatrics. Too bad the spirit of this song doesn’t carry over into the rest of the album.
The next track starts out in a promising manner, with a stylized chant that recounts some to the Butthole Surfer’s early experiments. From here something happens though, our vocalist and his cohorts seem to rush through as many hard rock/metal styles as possible without paying proper homage to any of them or establishing an original voice anywhere.
The standout track is, without a doubt, a somewhat warped narrative entitled “Everydead” in which the myriad vocal styles that fail to assert themselves anywhere else in the album are abandoned in favor of a Suicidal Tendencies-meets-Tenacious D oratory tone…a tone that is executed with skill and panache. This song is entertaining, but I think I would much rather listen to Suicidal Tendencies or Tenacious D.
And there is still the unresolved issue of my ass. I have listened to this album three times now, and my ass remains un-rocked-off. Dummy Jar is a band with many obvious influences: Ministry, Type O Negative, Man or Astro Man in addition to the others mentioned in this revue. I am not here to rail or rant against influence. But the key to creating effective rock ‘n’ Roll is to find ones place within the tradition of the art form and to take off with something new or at least something that won’t force the listener to hear other, older, better songs in his or her head.
All the ingredients are here on Dummy Jar’s “This is a Demo”: Strong if uninspired vocals, passable guitar work, a rhythm section that can count to four…but I hear no original voice. Better luck next time, fellas.