Immaculate Machine’s Brooke Gallupe is a man of many suits. In addition to being chief songwriter, singer, and guitarist for Immaculate Machine’s High on Jackson Hill, Gallup is also a trained opera singer and a published comic artist and has even played with the symphony in his hometown of Victoria, British Columbia. All of which may be an indicator as to why High On Jackson Hill tends to feel a bit schizophrenic.
Instead of relying on studio trickery, the members of Immaculate Machine opted for a DIY approach to the album — it was recorded in the empty house of Gallupe’s parents. The twelve songs warmly emit the love the members have invested into them. But this is an album that opts for many sounds and moods in lieu of cohesion, and that ultimately makes for an uneven listen.
Some of the strongest tracks are the acoustically driven ones, their strength partly due to the all-too-rare inclusion of founding member and current New Pornographer Kathryn Calder. “You Destroyer” finds Calder singing, “How can I make it clear? You are your own destroyer,” over melancholy washes of guitar and tambourine. The result is heartbreaking. Closer “Blurry Days” continues in this vein. Gallupe and Calder harmonize with convincing sincerity about embracing the uncertainty of life. Gallupe’s “I Know It’s Not Easy” culls the painterly landscapes of Calexico, with Convertino-reminiscent shades of percussion and brushed sneers kicking in around the three-minute mark, enhancing the somber mood of the song.
High on Jackson Hill features its share of rockers, from the classic-rock riffs teeming over the excellent album opener, “Don’t Build the Bridge,” to the not so classic “Thank Me Later,” which chugs along passionlessly like a long-lost Shins throwaway. “Primary Colours,” a track originally written by Gallupe for his band Victoria, feels exceptionally out of place on this record, with chords plucked from the Clash and a bombastic vocal delivery from Gallupe. While fine enough on its own, this quirky punk anthem simply doesn’t belong here.
And therein lies the personality crisis of Jackson Hill: The sole connecting thread for all these tunes is a band whose love for its craft just barely surpasses what a hodgepodge mess it often is.