With a Cape and a Cane starts with the sound of dripping water over some light clicking and whizzing; it’s nighttime. “Backlights they come” starts the first verse, the guitar groove trickling in, “on strong,” and the band immediately starts to do that shuffle-rock thing we’ve come to expect from it. Soon, the Joggers are delivering the feel-good bridge of the year and never bother to come back for a final verse or chorus, leaving well enough alone and rocking us back to the gentle sounds of night.
The band’s 2003 debut, Solid Guild, was a solid affair, and even though its follow-up begins as we might have expected it to, With a Cape and a Cane is a step in a different direction. It’s always refreshing to see a band try some new things. Unfortunately, it is not always guaranteed to please.
The second song starts with a nice Les Savy Fav-style rock-up and follows with a chorus that sounds a bit like “Yellow Submarine” or an energy-enhanced Halo Benders song. The next few songs indicate the Joggers’ strong Pavement influence. This is not always a bad thing, but “Wicked Light Sleeper” mixes a gay-disco vibe with the very Malkmus-esque vocals, and “Era Prison” is on some old-school Spy Hunter trip. “Horny Ghost” melds Pavement’s style with a Zeppelin groove and a bit of Randy Newman-inspired ivory tickling and includes a seriously sick guitar solo. Sounds good, right? But it also includes a riff that sounds like it was lifter from Puff Daddy & The Family’s 2001 hit “Bad Boy for Life.” If it weren’t for that, this song would conquer.
The ballad, “Night of the Horsepills,” is simple but smart. The vocals reflect a bit of Richard Hell’s influence, and it has a perfect new-wave chorus. This song should have closed the record; instead, it’s followed up by “Horny Ghost,” which I would love as a B-side, and the mediocre “Apache Figurines,” which offers nothing new in its six-plus minutes.
The members of the Joggers have a lot of good ideas and a lot of good influences (even if they’re a little too obvious at times), and this album has its highlights, and the band members get points for stepping up and creating songs that are far different than what most folks may have thought they were capable of creating. But much of With a Cape and a Cane is plagued with over-the-top dance wankery and a bit too much recycled influence. Some songs are worthy of regular listens, but the album has too many rough spots for it to be a triumph.
StarTime International Web site: http://startimerecords.com/
The Joggers Web site: http://www.thejoggers.com/