One of the adverse effects of the shift to an Internet-based music landscape is that we require more from our favorite artists even as we offer less in return. The standard album/tour cycle is just too long for a fan base that feasts on news, interviews, blog updates and constant signs of progress.
Considering his staggering fecundity as Jesu in the last few years, it seems Justin Broadrick is doing his damnedest to keep up with the accelerated pace of the music game. With two EPs, a split album, the full-length Conqueror, a compilation disc and his first ever U.S. tour in 2007, and two splits and the Why Are We Not Perfect EP already available in 2008, we barely get the opportunity to fully soak in a Jesu release before the next one’s available.
The endless stream of Jesu material would seem desperate if it produced redundant music, but Broadrick hasn’t repeated himself yet. Every release explores a different facet on the same limited sonic continuum, orbiting the nexus of heavy guitars, blissful atmosphere, industrial textures and subdural melody. The bulk of Why Are We Not Perfect, culled from Jesu’s vinyl-only split with Eluvium from 2007, rests at the softer end of the Jesu spectrum. Sputtering synthesizers overtake chugging guitar; immersive atmosphere swallows nearly all traces of Jesu’s crushingly heavy past. Broadrick’s patient, lightly auto-tuned vocals reach out boldly from the heart of the machine.
Why Are We Not Perfect completes Broadrick’s transformation from atmosphere-obsessed drone metallurgist to neo-shoegaze aesthete. There’s heaviness of a very different sort oozing from the two-chord vamp “Farewell” — it’s the kind of heaviness that derives from depth of production and emotional resonance, rather than piles of distorted guitar. You could easily fall into the cracks between those Björk-like fuzz bass hits on the title track. Its final lyric (“Why are we not perfect/ When we can’t live forever?”) is just one of the many simple profundities you’ll find buried deep within if you do.
Alternate versions of “Farewell” and “Why Are We Not Perfect,” both of which make their first appearances here, recast the proper versions as abstract headtrips. It’s telling that Broadrick chose the more sculpted, direct mixes as the official ones, but none all that surprising, as he’s been headed toward a melody-rich, metal-deficient end point since he first started recording as Jesu.
And that’s why Why Are We Not Perfect isn’t exactly revelatory — we always knew that Broadrick had it in him. Which brings up the one drawback to being so prolific. If we’re trained to expect a new release every few months, only a radical shift in direction (a la the Silver EP) will stand out. In the context of Jesu’s voluminous discography, the changes here seem incremental. Let’s put it this way: Why Are We Not Perfect is both predictable and predictably stunning.