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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jo Jo Zep - Screaming Targets~, Cha*

Name: Jo Jo Zep (and the Falcons)
Albums: Screaming Targets~, Cha*
Years: 1979~,1983*
Style: Rock~, New Wave~, Disco* Synth*
Similar Bands: Men At Work~, Dire Straits~, Planets~, Police~, Elvis Costello~, Tom Petty~, Bruce Springstein~, Tears For Fears*, Dr Buzzard's Savannah Band*, Kid Creole*
"One-Word" Review: Ska-Wave-Rock~ Synth-Disco-Jazz*
Based Out Of: Melbourne, Australia
Label: Boomerang Productions~, Full Moon~, Columbia~, A&M*, OZ Records*
Screaming Targets - Cover & Sleeve
Screaming Targets - Back & Sleeve
Cha - Cover & Sleeve
Cha - Back & Sleeve
Records

Screaming Targets (1979)~
  1. Hit & Run 4:40
  2. Don't Wanna Come Down 3:31
  3. Katschara 4:18
  4. Only the Lonely Hearted 2:44
  5. So Young 3:19/
  6. Close to the Bone 4:20
  7. Shape I'm In 3:32
  8. Trials & Tribulations 4:46
  9. Thin Line 3:22
  10. Openhearted 4:08
Cha (1983)*
  1. Losing Game 4:12
  2. Walk On By 3:52
  3. King Kong 4:01
  4. Taxi Mary 4:15
  5. Flexible 1:59/
  6. Sherrie 3:54
  7. Man is Just a Boy 4:13
  8. Spirit of the Land 4:27
  9. Competition 4:20
  10. Slave for Love 4:20
  11. Can't Decide 3:54
Album Ratings (1-10): 6.5~, 5.5*

Members & Other Bands:
John Power - Bass, Vox~
Joe Camilleri - Vox, Sax, Guitar~*Clarinet, Organ, Producer, Art Direction*
Gary Young - Drums, Percussion~
Wilbur Wilde - Sax, Vox~
Jeff Burstin - Guitar~*Mandolin*
Tony Faehse - Guitar, Vox~
Peter Solley - Producer~*Keys*
Ian McKenzie - Engineer~
Steve Brown - Remix Engineer~
Ian McCausland - Cover Art & Design~
Greg Noakes - Photography~
Michael Gudinski - Exec Producer~
Michael Roberts - Exec. Producer~Art Direction, Direction*
Simon Gyllies - Bass*
Jane Clifton - Vox*
Eddie Rayner - Keys, Producer*
Graham Fraser - Engineer*
Jim Barton - Engineer*
John Powter - Art & Design*
Tom Sikora - Photography*
Loud & Clear Management - Direction*

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of these guys. I bought these two albums in two different occasions, Cha after Screaming Targets. I bought the first one because of the interesting name, year and the cover art. I liked how the shield to the helmet was all white, like a sticker had been placed over the top of it. And I bought the second record because it was so different from what I remembered about the first album, but I still liked the odd-ball name. As for the style of music, I could only hope for a strong new wave/rock style since it was from 1979,a nd the second one, I thought it might be a little more Jazzy thanks tot he name Cha as well as the minimal artistic figures on the cover. It seemed less frantic and more grown up.

Album Reviews: More recently, I was at a friend’s house and I saw that he had an Elvis Costello poster framed and mounted, and accompanying Elvis on this particular tour was the name Jo Jo Zep. So by that, I figure they possessed some sort of fame at that point, whatever year the poster was from.

~“Hit & Run” has a start stop quickened reggae beat with electric slide guitar, and somewhat Men at Work / Reggae vocals too. It is bright and sunny, and has a female chorus Ooo-Oooing in the background. The quickened, fast sung chorus is very catchy and makes you want to move. The sax is used sparingly, but to a very efficient level in the instrumental. There is even an organ sneaked in there toward the end of the song, adding to the female choir to be some thing like gospel. The short, repetitive guitar hook is played over and over again for the last 1.5 minutes of the song through to the fade out.
“Don't Wanna Come Down” starts as a darker, back alley song. But as soon as the intro fades out, the bouncy pace is picked up, and the reggae guitar is used a little, but the storyteller lyrics take center stage. It also reminds me of a couple of the A’s songs. It was a very popular style for the late 70’s; that hard rock bordering on new wave story-song.
“Katschara” is a jazzy sax and bass beat inspired number. It then turns into slinky reggae, but leans more toward the hard rock side than reggae: like a faster “Watching the Detectives.”
“Only the Lonely Hearted” is a fun bouncy pop number. It reminds me of a J Geils Band number, just lacking the pub blues feel. But the instrumental breakdown brings the sax and rollicking piano and it feels a bit more like a pub song. The only difference is the vocals are more of relaxed, and mumbled more than sung, so they lack the passion of bar blues.
“So Young” is another happy, bouncy, reggae borrowed track. Even the electric guitar plays quick notes that create a rollercoaster, rather than extended whammy notes. It has that Middle America feel to it, similar to John C. Mellencamp (who is my dictionary definition example of that style, so I mention him all the time). The end of the song becomes very repetitions, almost to the point where you’d just wish it would end already.

~“Close to the Bone” is a dark and shady, alley way track with its intro. Once the vocals start, his singing reminds me of Elvis again. The verse is sung sort of like an upbeat lullaby, and the chorus gains a bold aggression and confidence, which carries over into the instrumental sections, which are where the strongest guitar and heaviest emotions flow.
“Shape I'm In” is a straightforward ska song, with jagged, rhythm guitar and catchy sax interplay. But the vocals strip the ska vibe off and leave a dull, generic reggae tune. When the sax and brass come back in for the instrumental, the song becomes instantly interesting again. This feels like a mid concert song thrown in to please the spacing hippie jammers out, as it could be prolonged for quite a while on the jam-based riff.
“Trials & Tribulations” brings us back to the mid-America light rock song. Here more than before, his voice finishes out the verse with the same twist that Jimi Hendrix used quite often. It feels like the Tom Petty song “Don’t Do Me Like That.” This is the first time that the Sax is used poorly, where it makes the song feel like a smooth jazz, easy listening single.
“Thin Line” picks up the pop pace with a Graham Parker style number: upbeat and quick paced. And it is a bit like Rick Springfield too. The end gets sporadically chaotic as style is replaced by bombastic cowbell and the song peters out at the end with sax.
“Openhearted” combines the light jazz sound with the reggae rhythm guitar. The chorus has a team of vocals giving power and promise to the theme of kindness and open mindedness. His feels like dancehall reggae stripped down by a non-Jamaican band. It is a pleasant, sunny reminder that brings us back to where we started from on the album. It does tend to go on though, after it wears out its welcome, not enough changes with the groove to keep it interesting. They add hooting and hollering behind the basic groove, but it does not breathe new life into the track

*“Losing Game” feels more synthesized and colder than the Screaming Targets. The vocals are weak and Tears For Fears inspired. It is an odd sound, partially R&B, part light synth pop. The vocals are similar to Smokey Robinson’s higher ranges. The bass sounds like a thick piece of rubber being strummed while stretched and disfigured. This is a light adult contemporary pop song.
“Walk On By” is a chilling synthetic Howard Jones type song. This sounds like a song that is just asking to be remixed into a popular dance track. The vocals are like a mixed up R&B singer, completely different from Screaming Targets. The music feels like it is missing some very important elements, as it is very sparse…which does add to the chilling aspect.
“King Kong” is a bouncy synth bass driven song. The synth sax (at least it all sounds synth) brings a bit of disco jazz, like Dr. Buzzard’s Savannah Band. The vocals remind me again of Tears for Fears in their falsetto reaching range. There are female dual vocals that sing out the chorus.
“Taxi Mary” is reportedly, their most popular song. It could only be described as synthetic conga disco. Perhaps I’m just trying to hear good into this, but I can almost hear a little bit of English Beat’s later stuff in his vocals, as well as Yaz. But a more accurate comparison could be made to Kid Creole.
“Flexible” starts out with an Asian sounding lute, and sexy but sad slow sax. Around the first minute it picks up a bit with standard piano sound, and diverges from the formerly Tom Waits sounding ballad. But before it can go anywhere, it ends with a fade, as the trumpet becomes masculine

*“Sherrie” adds a bit of big band Dancehall to the synth disco style that permeates from this record. But I actually kinda like this song, perhaps it reminds me of the Kid Creole song “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy,” that I liked. The bass is fun and driving, and the swirling synth effects that are set deep in the background are enjoyable. And the jazzy dance music that is on the surface is not over bearing and simply enjoyable too. There are some melody changes that keep the main song interesting through out. But the over all drum and bass driving force keep the song fresh, awake and alive.
“Man is Just a Boy” finally finds the blend of synth and dance that is neither too much of either aspect to be annoying. The bass line is a progressive beat the bounces up and down the frets (keys) and the band embraces New Wave synth and it even feels a little disjointed like an XTC song, just played with different instruments.
“Spirit of the Land” begins with a synth organ and liquid bass effects. It is a bit slower, and falls into a generic reggae vibe. It reminds me of a Santogold song, actually, but is slower and it never reaches that place where it feels like it will become the song I’m thinking about.
“Competition” goes back to the falsetto singing from the first side of this record. It is more of a cold R&B groove, rather than the disco tracks the album seemed to be heading toward. It is also close to Bronski Beat when listening to the vocals. The female and male vocal parts in this song make it seem very theatrical.
“Slave for Love” begins with percussive wood block effects. The synth keyboard and deep lounge vocals make it feel like a poorly done parody of a James Bond Theme. The vocals sound forced and never gain the confidence as the song literally waltzes along. It is almost as if the singer is on the brink of yawning.
“Can't Decide” is a departure of style from this album and much more closely mimics the old style. The guitar rings prominently throughout, and the singing is rough and nasally. It feels like a last minute decision to give the audience what they might have been expecting from the band’s history…like “at least there is this song.” There are virtually no synth effects applied to the instruments (except perhaps the drums might be a machine).

Stand Out Tracks: Hit & Run~

Links:

2 comments:

  1. Greg Williams2/8/10, 10:56 PM

    A closer connection to Elvis Costello is that Elvis covered "so Young" on the 50 hits re-issue of Get Happy!!
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, thanks for posting this.

    In the early 80's my friends and I were into most of the Australian Groups, Cold Chisel, Jo Jo, Australian Crawl, etc.. and this was one of my favorite albums.

    Plus your review cracks me up. How does one use a sax "badly". Interesting.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete