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Jaguar Love

Hologram Jams

Rating: 1.5/5.0

Label: Fat Possum Records

All anyone really needs to know about Portland-based Jaguar Love can be summed up by lyrics from “Cherry Soda,” from their second LP, Hologram Jams: “Sugar-coated cherry soda/ Puking on the lawn/ It’s six AM, the party’s over, everybody’s gone/ Rode a motherfucking mastodon to my high school prom/ It’s on…like ‘Immigrant Song.’

Johnny Whitney’s voice- resembling that of a sort of man-child Robert Plant whose prepubescent nuts are in a vice- strikes like lightning over a buzzsaw synthline that teeters between undeniably catchy and horrifyingly obnoxious. Those shrieks are familiar to scene kids from their native Seattle, but anyone else could give a damn; for those in the latter camp, Whitney and multi-instrumentalist Cody Votolato formed the spiky Jaguar Love after leaving the dual-lead vocalizing, caterwauling Blood Brothers (most of that band remained in Seattle, becoming the nervy, brooding Past Lives).

Specializing in furious guitar-mashing on their first, 2008’s Take Me to the Sea, Hologram Jams features the new Jaguar Love- one with drum machines, synthesizers and the kind of slimy irony that makes this record the sonic equivalent of a hipster’s pube-stach. The record starts off with a Vocoded self-reference, before a ’60s-style pop song, “I Started a Fire,” eases listeners into the band’s new day-glo leanings. Up next, in no time, comes “Polaroids and Red Wine,” where JL really premiere their new identity, all busy electronic syncopation and plasticky synthesizer. “I was in the back of my car/ Sleeping in the sunshine/ Polaroids and drinking red wine,” Whitney squeals sleazily, while remaining vague enough, before self-referencing once again, that “Jaguar Love would rather be gold than platinum/ And Jaguar Love would rather be a dance party than an album!” Great!

“Cherry Soda” is next, a song so ridiculous that I’ve hated it into being likable. “Don’t Die Alone” is a weird cybernetic regurgitation of a John Lennon B-side no one’s ever heard. “Up All Night” finds Whitney imparting to us tales of some hallucinatory house party he attended where he was able to watch bombs fall on Afghanistan with a drink in his hand; it’s actually the second time he mentions the brutality of war in contrast with his giggly, early-morning dancing antics, making him come off as more dunderheaded and skeevy than beautifully decadent and clever.

After the opening salvo of those five tunes, the wheels come off Hologram Jams; there’s another self-reference, this time in “Jaguar Warriors,” and the rest of the record suffers from a lack of the initial songs’ earlier, undeniable hooks. Also, the super-compressed, incredibly wired sound the band’s gone for leads to overstimulation by this point and the hidden track, a cover of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s originally soulful, molten “Piece of My Heart” makes one yearn for a sincere, organic-sounding performance from a band like…Past Lives. Jaguar Love can have their dance party; in that case, I’ll decline the invite, as the album alone has left me feeling like I’m waking up at 2:00 PM the next day with cavities, a headache and the suspicion that someone roofied my drink.

by Chris Middleman
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