Don't Call Us Jambands
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2001, Volume 8, #9
Written by John Metzger
The producers of Don't Call Us Jambands want to have their cake and eat it too. Despite the disc's moniker, the album's other working title is Jams, Vol. I, the liner notes describe the basic nature of the jam band scene, and the package comes affixed with a sticker containing a laudatory quote from the very folks that brought the term to light. Further, this unwieldy 73-minute affair is chock-full of exactly the type of songs most often attributed to jam bands.
Despite this, Don't Call Us Jambands has one thing right: These ensembles should not be lumped in this category. In fact, the groups contributing to this package have far more in common with funk, techno, and even progressive rock than they do with anything improvisation-oriented. Anyone thinking the repetitive drone of Particle's Kneeknocker is an actual jam needs a lesson in what constitutes true improvisation.
Unfortunately, much of Don't Call Us Jambands is mundane, and even at its best, it makes for rather tedious listening. Many of the groups, such as Tuatara (featuring R.E.M.'s Peter Buck), Robert Walter's 20th Congress, The Motet, and The Sugarman Three, intriguingly fold jazzier grooves into their repertoire, but in each case, the band turns mindlessly monotonous in its approach.
Exactly where each track fails can be gleaned from the album's highlight Morse Code. Here, Vinyl finds inspiration in its Latin-fueled rhythm section, occasionally breaking free from the pounding redundancy of the disc. And therein lies the problem: All of these groups and their rhythm sections seem content simply to deliver a generic, unimaginative robotic thumping rather than provide a forcefully driving undercurrent. Therefore, the end result is that the listener winds up with more of a pounding headache than a desire to dance. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box