First thing to establish is that Bobby Jealousy isn’t a him, it’s a they. They’re a band from Austin, TX, and they’ve released my favorite album so far in 2012, A Little Death. The title is a slight variation on the phrase, la petite mort, which is existential Française for orgasm because of course it is. Actually, the orgasm is a perfect reference for Bobby J because the album is about fucking and getting fucked as much as anything (“Fucked with you/Fucked you, then I fought with you”), not to mention the endorphin rush of being in blissful, desperate love (“What would I do without you/To hold me when it hurts so bad/Don’t ever let me go). Or, maybe I just think this way because A Little Death has been sexing the shit out of my earballs ever since Ducktaper sent it to me after SXSW.
Bobby Jealousy combines ’50s music, Dollsy glam, soul, punk, and probably a dozen other things into a joyous pop tornado. A Little Death is sprawling and epic, like Wilco circa Being There crossed with Queen. Yes, THAT Queen. This may not be an accident. As lead singer, Sabrina Ellis, told Austin360, “I grew up listening to Queen. I wanted to be Freddie Mercury. I would dress up in these one-piece unitards and put on a fake mustache and sing my heart out.” If reports of their live shows are any indication, this wasn’t a passing phase. Speaking of Freddie, I think Bobby J’s song, “Rainbow,” should be appropriated by gay rights advocates. They get a new anthem, Bobby J gets mad royalties, everyone wins.
Bobby Jealousy – Rainbow + Band Intros
In describing Bobby Jealousy, the phrase I hear most is “dirtpop.” I love that. I think it describes the band perfectly and I’m not totally sure why. Maybe it’s the vocal harmonies, the way they fit together perfectly, but not in the lush, tightly blended, and reverby way so prevalent in the last 6-7 years (think My Morning Band Of Foxes). The voices on A Little Death have space to move around, as does the music, the sum of the parts blending casually, yet with purpose, and I think this is a credit to the one-woman, two-man songwriting and production operation that is Bobby J.
Sabrina Ellis is the group’s thrift-store Freddie Mercury, an f-bombing force of nature from whom your eyes (and ears) will not want to move. I find it interesting that in the past calendar year, my new favorite singers have invariably been badass females: Lydia Loveless, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, and Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony of Wild Flag (neither “new,” but in a new aggregation). Ellis holds her own with any of them. Aside from Mercury, the singer she really reminds me of is PJ Harvey, from back in the old stripped-down trio days (Dry, Rid Of Me). Sabrina is actually responsible for my second favorite record so far in 2012, Fight, by her other band, A Giant Dog. They’re noisier and more garage punk than Bobby Jealousy, but Ellis’ glamboyance is common ground in both. Fight is a must-hear and I’ll probably write about it (and them) later.
Ellis’ main foil in Bobby J is husband, Seth Gibbs. You may remember him from such Adios Lounge appearances as Rebel Land, Alabam: The Dexateens & Archibalds (Seth was bassist in The Archibalds) and SX Sam’s Town Point 2011 (Seth appeared with Brother Machine). In addition to singing and songwriting, Gibbs is the band’s bassist, but he’ll play whatever damn instrument he feels like mastering that day. I’m pretty sure he’s one of those fancy musical geniuses. As a bassist, he has a funky sensibility, yet will throw in gorgeous countermelodies. If those contributions weren’t enough, Seth is also the brains behind Superpop Records, the recording studio where A Little Death was produced, mixed, and mastered.
The third component to the Bobby J sound is singer/guitarist, Mark Stoney. He actually was a pop star in Britain, but within the last decade, not in the 1970s. His experience in the British music industry, and as a producer in his own right, is an interesting facet of Bobby J. He says of his background, “Where I was from in Sheffield … it was a very close community of musicians, the Arctic Monkeys and Pulp, even back to the Human League and Cabaret Voltaire. That was sort of my stomping ground where I cut my teeth.” (Austin360, same article from which Sabrina is quoted above). I’m not a real big Britpop guy, but I can’t deny that whatever Stoney’s bringing to the table totally works as an ideal counterweight in Bobby Jealousy.
Bobby Jealousy – Take You On
Recorded at Superpop Studios, Late 2011
Engineered/Mixed/Mastered by Seth Gibbs
Video produced for Hardly Sound by Randy Reynolds & Chris Kim
And here’s where all those influences come together in a bitches brew of perfect pop. “Take You On” evokes two separate strains of ’50s music — American doo wop and British skiffle — and the result is pure gold. If you say you like pop music and don’t like this, you either don’t understand what “pop” means or are suffering from heatstroke. Maybe both. It’s hot out there.
“Take You On” also has one of my favorite choruses in recent memory:
“Never admit that I was wrong
Can’t be defeated if I quit
Responsibility, commitment, all that shit
I’ll never be alone again.”
Bobby Jealousy – Flamethrower
A Little Death, 2012
The leadoff track from A Little Death sounds a bit like Neko Case, and a lot like mid-period Flaming Lips (maybe that’s where the flame reference comes from?). Gibbs’ bass is a particular highlight, giving the song a fat, funky pocket, while also echoing the vocal melodies and synth line(s) riding on top. The appeal isn’t that complicated. It’s infectious and anthemic and yet another example of their glorious dirtpop.
Flaming Lips – Bad Days (Excerpt)
Clouds Taste Metallic, 1995
“We make the music into this sort of capsulized thing, something you can imagine the Bee Gees doing. It’s a little like Christmas music. We use the atmosphere of what the song is about to get the point across.”
–Wayne Coyne, Rolling Stone, March 9, 1995
When I said “Flamethrower” reminded me of the Lips, this is not only the song I had in mind, this is the specific section. 1990-95 is my favorite era of the Flaming Lips, pre-auto-tune and before they became “serious” and “significant.” Not that it’s bad, by any stretch of the imagination. But, gimme everything between In A Priest Driven Ambulance and Clouds Taste Metallic, with the latter album being their high water mark. That era is the perfect blend of experimental noise rock and adventurous pop, with second guitarist, Ronald Jones, then-drummer Steven Drodz, and producer, Dave Fridmann, seemingly equal partners with original members, bassist, Michael Ivins, and gadabout frontman, Wayne Coyne.
Cock Of The Walk
Bobby Jealousy recently completed their first tour, hitting the midwest and east coast. If recent Facebook rumblings are to be believed, they are scheduled to hit the west coast sometime in the next month or so. If you have a chance to see them, by all means go. If nothing else, get thee to Bandcamp. A Little Death is the perfect cure for your lifeless music collection.
Buy A Little Death on Bandcamp
$6 CD+download, $7 download, $15 fancy CD
Come on baby, let’s go home
Let’s watch the end begin