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Revisit: Jesus Jones: Liquidizer

Revisit: Jesus Jones: Liquidizer

Liquidizer boldly introduced Jesus Jones to the world, with such healthy and inspirational disregard for pop music convention.

Of course you remember Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine. You may even have heard of Orgy’s first record featuring their catchy but largely unnecessary interpretation of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. How about Stabbing Westward? How about the unbelievable overplaying of EMF’s “Unbelievable”. What all of those artists have in common is that the media referred to every one of them as pioneers of the same sound — a blending of electronic, industrial and dance music influences with pop rock. Of course back then we would simply have lumped it into that table in the corner of the room where weird kids sat and called it, vaguely, alternative dance.

Long before any of those artists albums made it onto the charts, there was a record that shot out of nowhere, way ahead of its time. It was a record built for the mid-’90s on the tail end of the ’80s by a British band who were so forward-thinking that they posed for magazine posters wearing a would-be trend-setting combination of era skateboard attire and sci-fi space gear made out of BMX safety equipment. They were every future nerd’s dream — dancefloor-friendly pop-punk banged out on synthesizers and samplers where the guitar was merely a supporting sound. But their debut fell somewhat flat despite being one of the most groundbreaking and innovative records of its day. You probably don’t remember Liquidizer.

The Brits got it, as they often do with innovative new sounds (see Drum ‘n’ Bass, dubstep). On his BBC Radio 1 show, Bruno Brookes championed their first single “Info Freako” which was, incidentally, one of the least great tracks of an album full of great singles. In fact “Never Enough” which featured a fast buzzing guitar drone forming the backbone upon which Mike Edwards hung the meat of his raspy, melancholic cries. “So you wanna be happy!/ So you wanna be happy! Hey-Hey!/ Don’t you know happy is/ Never enough!

It’s a rare thing that an album can hold up over 25 years after its release but this one really does. The ’90’s hip-hop influences which are now being celebrated by modern records like Celph Titled and Buckwild’s Nineteen Ninety Now are all over Liquidizer. “Too Much to Learn” even exploits dub influences before winding into a catchy pop hook. That these sounds are now finding a new audience means that Liquidizer needs to be reintroduced. Though it may be celebrated for being ‘retro’, it’s important to note that electronic acts are not celebrated in that way quite as often — particularly where they crossed over into rock territory. Electronic music is often perceived as the disposable junk food of the genre tree and yet Liquidizer manages to sound timeless.

The album opens on “Move Mountains,” which features a simple, very old-school (even at the time) house beat. After a few bars however, it launches into possibly the earliest “crazy drop” in dance music history. A unrelenting freak out of grinding guitar melody, layer upon layer of swinging sirens, vocal samples and a the icing on the cake — a breakbeat. It’s a fitting intro that holds as much impact today as it did when it was recorded.

It wouldn’t be until Doubt arrived in 1991 that Jesus Jones would finally become a household name. Seemingly coached into making good business decisions, they doubled down on the pop appeal and distanced themselves from Liquidizer’s more raw guitar sections. On the back of their jangly pop anthem “Right Here Right Now”, the band became so well known that they licensed the song to the small Canadian province of Prince Edward Island who used it, much to the chagrin of their own under-represented musicians, to promote tourism. “Right Here, Right Now/ There is no other place that I’d rather be.” Of course they did. It’s a no-brainer. But Liquidizer fell into obscurity in the shadow of Doubt, as would the band and both went unappreciated by anyone but the fans around the world who sought merely to round out their collections.

From the simple hip-hop breaks of “What’s Going On?” which overlay a wah-wah guitar lick to the uncomfortable, almost burgeoning industrial grinding of “Song 13,” Jesus Jones was a gateway band that transformed fans of pop music into fans of more alternative electronic crossovers. For that, they deserve some reflection and a rewind. And for the fact that Liquidizer introduced them to the world so boldly and with such healthy and inspirational disregard for pop music convention, it deserves a place in your library.

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