For Jeremy Jay, music may as well have stopped after 1970. The dizzy guitar strum that opens the second track, “Heavenly Creatures,” on Jay’s first full-length, A Place Where We Could Go, carries his voice along with it. It’s this distant awkward croon that directly draws a valid comparison to that of early David Bowie. But Jay’s guitar and piano, Chris Sutton’s drums, and Calvin Johnson’s scant (in a good way) recording and production also make some songs sound as much like 1950s pop as others do The Man Who Sold the World-era Thin White Duke. An awkward mix of glam-less glam rock and off-speed rock ‘n’ roll tempos makes this album interesting, but lulls in the songs and the album itself keep it from being entirely enjoyable.
Although the songs seem almost too familiar, there is enough of a difference to separate Jay from a good cover artist. Touching upon various styles, but never quite achieving any, Jay seems to revel in the in-between. Fluctuating between singing and talking, his accompaniment too is always on the verge of becoming something more. Standouts such as “Beautiful Rebels” and “Heavenly Creatures” and the title track contain all the elements of a good Bowie song — drum bursts, buildups, airiness and off-kilter singing — but seem purposefully mismatched. On other songs, however, this mismatch causes the songs to stop short of their stride.
The songs are charming in their less-than-nostalgic take on “oldies,” perhaps because instead of updating the classic elements, they attempt to stand on their own as Jay’s own versions — an open time capsule. Unfortunately for Jay, music has progressed since 1970, and this sidestep seems even outdated and not quite pastiche. “The Living Dolls” sounds as though a doo-wop record is played at low speed, and “While the City Sleeps” is another ’50s hit slowed down enough to learn the chords. Jay’s croon is the one staple throughout the album, but it turns repetitive as songs run too long, and he begins to sound as though he is reading his lyrics rather than meaning them.
None of the songs on A Place Where We Could Go are as striking as Jay’s previous single, “Airwalkers,” the album is a fresh debut, in that is sounds like no other. Just as the Blow seem to have a contemporary ’80s-pop sensibility, Jay seems to be K’s hipster teen idol. Like teen idols, however, and unlike Bowie or even Buddy Holly, there is little substance and a lot of promise.