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Thursday, November 5, 2009

(the) Judybats - Native Son

Name: The Judybats
Album: Native Son
Year: 1990
Style: Adult Alternative
Similar Bands: Ocean Blue, Pixies, Game Theory, Gin Blossoms, Cocteau Twins,
"One-Word" Review: New-Age Gothic Pop
Based Out Of: Knoxville, TN
Label: Sire, Warner Bros., Time Warner
Native Son - Cover, Notes & Tape
Native Son - Liner Notes & Tape

Native Son(1990)
  1. Native Son 3:18
  2. Daylight 3:18
  3. Convalescing in Spain 4:07
  4. Don't Drop the Baby 3:41
  5. She Lives (in a time of her own) 4:05
  6. Incognito 3:02/
  7. In Like with You 4:04
  8. Woman in the Garden 3:59
  9. Waiting for the Rain 4:07
  10. Counting Sheep 3:25
  11. Perfumed Lies 3:43
  12. Wanted Man 4:45
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jeff Heiskell - Vox (Heiskell)
Timothy Stutz - Bass, Vox (High Signs)
Peggy Hambright - Keys, Strings, Vox, Design, Illustration
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Terry Casper - Drums, Design
David Cook -Additional Engineer
Richard Gottehrer - Production
Chris Laidlaw - Mixing Asst.
Jeffrey Lesser - Co-Producing, Engineering
Jeff Lippay - Asst. Engineer
Johnny Sughrue - Guitar, Vox, Photograhy
Ed Winters - Guitar
Dennis Oppenheimer - Management

Unknown-ness: I know I’ve heard of these guys before I bought this tape, but have never really listened to the tape and don’t know how they sound at all. I’m sure I saw, read about or heard them in some alternative magazine, on W-DRE, 120 Minutes or post modern PST. I also like the artwork on the front of the tape. It reminds me a little of Edward Gorey, and that coupled with the italicized album title make me think that this will be a musically complex/dense adult-alternative album with a gothic tone.

Album Review: It seems that the band was plagued with label disagreements and unhappiness that lead to the demise of the band. Included in the allegations was that the label rudely asked Peggy to lose weight for the image of the band.

“Native Son” begins with bass, and a comfortable melody that reminds me of the Pixies. The male lead and female backing vocals are harmonized together and double layered in the (at the time) popular fuzzy and not quite solid way that prevents you from putting your finger on the actual voice, or how many there are. There are a slew of guitar effects that are used to create depth in the sound.
“Daylight” flows from the acoustic/electric guitar beginning. Like a singer songwriter demo, and perhaps a little like the Gin Blossoms, but not in an extremely terrible way. The vocals are cleaner and stronger, yet still layered and grouped with a chorus in the background. The speed of the singing in some verse sections reminds me of the quick pace that XTC uses on occasion.
“Convalescing in Spain” begins with a harpsichord sounding guitar, and a wha-wha bass. The song then changes gears and becomes an energetic driving pop song like the Bongos/Cucumbers Hoboken early 80’s scene. The vocals possess over- accentuated nasally syllables in each line ending accent. It kind of reminds me of Presidents of the United States. The song’s tempo changed throughout the song and piano is incorporated when things slow down.
“Don't Drop the Baby” is a slightly gothic (thanks to the bass and synth) melody that floats on by via a crystalline breeze. Musically the soundscape they are trying to meet is a pop version of the Cocteau Twins. The song is anthemic.
“She Lives (in a time of her own)” also used the echoing vocals, which are delivered with a powerful prog-storytelling style. The synthesizer keys buried in the background and are less new age, but it still feels meandering and the whole song feels overly complex.
“Incognito” starts with a liquid crystal guitar, medieval and minstrel in the way it is used behind and to accent the vocal melody. This is the quiet lighter raising ballad…or perhaps oversized candle and dream catcher raising ballad.

“In Like with You” begins with more watery sounding happy pop guitar. It has a nice build to the chorus, and the bridge increases the anticipation, and it does deliver well, however, it is not a very long delivery, and the cycle begins again. The instrumental brings us back to the new age mystical trance. This could be a very different song, if it were recorded with a faster punk production, which is very possible, given the progression of the sections.
“Woman in the Garden” is not quite a ballad, but definitely not a pop song. It is a slithering wispy gothic prog song. The song is pretty boring in its stale beauty.
“Waiting for the Rain” is more poppy and fun, but it employs this keyboard effect that sounds like an electric cat whining. It is part bell, and part liquid, but all annoying when the note is held and wavers. There is a chugging guitar in the background that sounds like The Police, and the vocals are fluid and possess a great melody. Then there is the angelic chorus at the end that is followed up with Christmas like synth bells. And the song ends with that terrible effect.
“Counting Sheep” has a fun late-Clash like rhythm to it in short verse sections, but it also uses more cheesy 80’s sounding effects that push it into the realms of new age than pop. And anything fun or catchy is replaced and sucked out with the choices of synth effects.
“Perfumed Lies” features a terrible synth steel drum. The song is nice, uplifting and refreshing: just pleasant. It is not complicated or deep, and ends up feeling a little like a late period English Beat song. This song would do good being sung by Morrissey.
“Wanted Man” begins with echoing anthemic chugging guitar…oh and some new age whistling to suck the life out. Then, for no good reason it added a synth violin that is played at jilting moments. But the song itself is good, driving pop.

The album has promise and the songs could be really good and catchy, if it were not bogged down in the style and odd appeal of the synth effects they decide to use & enhance the songs. Really, the little effects are too distracting and they take away more than add.

Stand-Out Track: Native Son


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