Jamaica JamaicaNo Problem
Being French, starting a band, and calling it Jamaica seems like an awesome marketing strategy to me. Especially if your band makes music without stepping on any of the musical clichés possessed by either country. The former Poney Poney don’t know anything about chanson française, or the “french touch,” or pastis; they also don’t know anything about dub, marijuana, or reggae. Of course I mean they don’t know anything about it when it comes to making their own music. On the other hand, they could teach a seminar on cold beer, ingenuity and freshness, guitar riffs, and rock’n’roll posing. Just for that detail when it comes to choosing their name, taking into account the context, they already deserve a spot in listeners’ memories. They have already tripped up your system of prejudices, your deductive methods; now it’s impossible for you to forget about them, whether you like them or not. It’s also hard to erase from your memory a band whose first single has a video that is fun, well-done, handled by one of the coolest designers the French have, So -Me. “I Think I Like U 2” even allows itself to make snide little jokes about Bono, the leader of the obliquely-mentioned Irish band. Another detail for a long-lasting memory.
Although it’s true that the duo does away with many clichés that can be attributed to its name and nationality, there is a label that can’t be skipped over when it comes to describing Jamaica. This label is that of Justice. From the band’s logo, designed by Cool Cats , to the unmistakeable sound of the electric guitars, the four surprising violin notes that appear once in awhile, the echo of the drum boxes … These sounds are easily recognisable if you have paid attention to Justice’s musical career, but this time at the service of electro-rock. Xavier de Rosnay handled production; perhaps he has handled it too much, maybe he doesn’t know how to produce without it sounding like his electronic duo, but “Cross the Fader”, “ I Think I Like U 2” and “Short and Entertaining”, three songs that we already knew before the album came out, which open the album and are perhaps those with the clearest dance floor intentions, are as tacky as they can be.
Starting with the third song, the album starts to replace the dance floor and the night-time with outings to the park, the spring sun, and afternoons drinking a few beers with your pals; Rosnay relaxes and Jamaica flows more genuinely. The revolutions slow down, the melodies unfold pleasantly, acoustic guitars, tambourines, and keyboards are taken up, and brushstrokes of a ton of references start to appear –Wilco, Kiss, Beck, Pretty Girls Make Graves– all of them totally distant from what you might expect of a band whose logo is so similar to that of Kavinsky. Because what Flo Lyonnet and Antoine Hilaire compose is more 90’s power-pop, luminous post-core, and glam rock with teased hair and shoulder pads than banger electro-rock. You only have to listen to the guitar picking at the start of “Jericho” or “By the Numbers” (the first minute could pass for a Millencolin song if the sound of the guitars hadn’t been handled so much) to realise that “No Problem” could have been a great album with an indie heritage if it had been produced by Steve Albini, to give an example.
To have Albini would be asking too much, I know. What I mean is that the best of this album, as far as quality goes, is contributed by Flo and Antoine. A graceful, pleasant-sounding voice singing melodies with a lot of presence, vitamin C, character, lovable bragging and nerve. Pure catchy pop that would be 100 % enjoyable if the production hadn’t wanted to put most of it under strobe lights and a disco ball, blurring the result and leaving your ears dazed. What could have been, in a way, the more “rock” end of the Ed Banger sound spectrum (because Pedro Winter’s label has already become a classifiable sound) ends up sounding a little pastiche. If you were to offer me an acoustic version of “No Problem”, I would buy it with my eyes closed. But this way, there’s something that doesn’t quite work.