Sep 142010

The EP, or extended play, had run its course in America by the 1960s, but it was an established part of the UK rock ‘n roll scene, offering artists a chance to leak out a little more than a single to tease fans for the release of a new album or, perhaps, to get a musical tangent out of their system without the pressure of constructing an entire album around a possible lark. As you probably know, The Magical Mystery Tour album that Americans grew up with and that was released in German True Stereo by our friends in Germany was initially released in the UK as a double EP. The EP format was revived to some effect in both markets in the punk (often as 7″ EPs) and disco (think 12″ singles) scenes, but the coolest format ever, in my opinion, the classic vinyl, 10-inch EP that Epic tried to revive with a series that included The Clash‘s Black Market Clash and a decent Cheap Trick platter, did not take off. Too bad! One of my unfulfilled musical dreams is the release of a 10-inch EP that somehow pays homage to Captain Beefheart‘s Music in Sea Minor.

In the digital age the EP release may make more sense than ever. Think about how long it takes artists to release a new album. Think about how few songs from that album ever get played on the radio. Think about the short attention spans of iPod-equipped listeners who may have only loaded the initially catchiest handful of songs, that is, if they even bothered to download an entire album. Why shouldn’t artists release a handful of songs at a time as an EP, cut down on the wait between releases, and possibly generate more reviews and opportunities for lead tracks to get played on air? I don’t know if two artists, relative newcomer Jump Back Jake and Friend of the Hall Martin Newell had any of this in mind when putting together their latest EPs, but we’ll take ’em – and review ’em…after the jump.

Jump Back Jake, Call Me Your Man

Jump Back Jake, “Call Me Your Man”

Jump Back Jake is a Memphis-based band led by Jake Rabinbach, a cohort of some founding members of MGMT and who formed the band in 2006, after moving from Brooklyn. Rabinbach keeps one foot in New York, as lead guitarist for Francis and the Lights. The EP is a follow-up to the band’s debut album, Brooklyn Hustle/Memphis Muscle, which suspect reviewer I am I have never heard. I also can’t tell MGMT from MGM or TNT, but what did strike me was that Jump Back Jake is on the revived secular branch of the Ardent label, home of – wait a second, you don’t really need me to tell you the legendary band associated with Ardent, do you? I had no idea the label entered the Christian market or let alone survived to this day in any form. I found it hard not to feel good at the thought of the old sky-blue Ardent record label.

For those hoping for a new Radio City, Call Me Your Man is more rooted in the Memphis blue-eyed soul sound of Alex Chilton’s work before and after Big Star. The production is pretty flat, fat, and dry, the way I often like records to sound. Rabinach has a fine, rough, yet ultimately nondistinct voice. There are so many competent bands like this around, bands like Okkervil River and Old 97’s, but I cannot tell what sets one apart from the other. I’m perfectly willing to take the blame for my ignorance, but some day I’d love to get some insight into the finer points of this style of music. The title track delivers the 4-on-the-floor goodness that never ceases to grab me, and I like the 6/8 blues approach of “Rose Colored Coffin,” but I’m not getting enough of the Memphis soul stew or even outright “Hell, yeah!” Southern Rock righteousness from this stuff. Still, there’s enough to give this guy a second listen down the road.

Martin Newell, Mule

Martin Newell, “Wake Up and Dream”

Martin sent us this EP a few months ago, and in my typically behind-schedule way I’m reviewing it now. (A review of the latest Cleaners From Venus album is forthcoming.) As you may know, Newell is a longtime proponent of taking matters into his own hands and keeping things simple. I love him for his personal approach and the spirit that runs through all his means of expression. The four songs on Mule cut no new musical paths from those already established by Newell’s on previous recordings: jangly, melodic musings on everyday, half-imagined life, such as this EP’s standout track, “The Queen and Me.” On this EP Newell’s keeping the trails clean and leaving a few new treats behind for return hikers to discover. (Mule is available directly from Martin’s Emporium.)


  One Response to “INSTA-REVIEW: Extended Play Edition”

  1. trolleyvox

    I wish Martin Newell would let me produce his recordings. I understand the keep it simple approach, but I feel like the sonics could use some tweeking. I suspect his recordings benefit from the presence of collaborators/partners-in-crime. Perhaps working with Andy Partridge is enough to scare anyone off from a studio. Anyway, A decent drummer would help, or at least a more modern/subtle drum program. I’m all aces at arranging the musical vase and have lovingly adjusted a fader or two in my day. Think about it, Martin.

    I’m also conflicted about his rock count-in for a drum machine.

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