It's possible that no vocal instrument in rock is more distinctive than former Blood Brother Johnny Whitney’s. Your willingness to take that voice’s idiosyncrasies (like shrieking screams and red-level falsetto) in all their glory will largely dictate how much you like Jaguar Love’s Matador debut, Take Me to the Sea. Whitney, along with additional Blood Bro Cody Votolato and former Pretty Girls Make Graves member J Clark, formed the group last year. They quickly hit the road opening for Queens of the Stone Age, before recording Take Me to the Sea, a cross between sloppy prog-rock and emo that ends up being less than a sum of its parts.
Musically, Jaguar Love shares more in common with the scattershot indie of Pretty Girls Make Graves, but the songs are distinctly Whitney’s. On lead single “Highways of Gold,” Whitney’s vocal gymnastics far outshine the proficient playing of the rest of the band, but the song’s backbeat does provide a solid grounding element.
Prog-rock flourishes (like abrupt time signature changes and weird concept lyrics about Jaguars) fuel most of the album, but two tracks stand above the rest, despite their weaknesses. “Antoine and Birdskull” begins with a Stevie Ray Vaughn bloozy guitar before slowly devolving into a danceable chaos. “Humans Evolve into Skyscrapers” is the album’s highlight: A programmed drum beat announces the song like it’s about to be a club thumper of the David Banner variety, but then the song turns into a slamming thrasher with more “fucks” than you can count on 15 limbs. (Basically, it’s a friendlier Blood Brothers song with a drum machine.)
It had to be hard for Jaguar Love to pick one genre of music on Take Me to the Sea, because they needed to come up with a sound that would excise mention of the group members’ former bands. Unfortunately, choosing this weird concoction has made for a disjointed album full of duds (“The Man with the Plastic Suns,” “Vagabond Ballroom,” “My Organ Sounds Like…”) and songs that seem underdeveloped (“Bonetrees and a Broken Heart,” “Georgia”). If people weren’t going to wish for the members of Jaguar Love to return to their old bands, they are now.
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