Jaguar Love Take Me to The Sea

[Matador; 2008]

Styles: dance punk, glam, androgynous screeching
Others: Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Blood Brothers

Given that Jaguar Love consists of two ex-Blood Brothers and a member from also-defunct Pretty Girls Make Graves, the general sound of their debut album Take Me to The Sea isn’t particularly shocking. Indeed, the chaotic, pop-infused hardcore of The Blood Brothers is prominent here, though stripped down to a less destructive (but still propulsive) sound that foregrounds their dance-punk tendencies.

Also unsurprising: the most distinctive element of Take Me to The Sea is singer Johnny Whitney’s trademark squawk, which he pushes to even higher registers than on previous releases. His unusual phrasing and catchy-yet-abrasive melodies provide the album with its most interesting moments, but it’s also his voice that causes portions of the album to flounder. While the noisy rush of The Blood Brothers provided a foundation in which his screech sounded almost natural, the more traditional sound of Jaguar Love leaves Whitney’s voice isolated high in the mix.

The album excels when it takes advantage of this disconnect, such as on lead single “Bats Over the Pacific Ocean,” a track that extrapolates eviction into a sort of all-encompassing worldview. Here, Whitney is at once resigned and desperate, his voice both submitting to and tearing away from the song’s acoustic guitar and piano stomp that is strangely reminiscent of The Arcade Fire. However, Whitney is also occasionally treated as though he were a more traditional vocalist. This is best exemplified on the interminable ballad “Georgia,” in which Whitney is unable to add to the song’s tired and obvious rockist moves.

But it’s on “Jaguar Pirates” that the divide between what the album does well and where it stumbles is most clearly delineated. When Whitney alternately follows and dashes away from a giddy guitar melody, it's certainly exciting and fresh, but the song inevitably spends far too much time on boring slashes of guitar that give Whitney nothing to play with. Still, there’s clearly potential on Take Me to The Sea. Jaguar Love inject a vicious vitality into their neon-hued rock, and the idea of a dance punk with real fury behind the party is appealing. But in order to avoid being merely irritating or simply diverting, Jaguar Love could benefit from fully unhinging, with an increase in wrath.

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