Jamaican Queens Wormfood

[Notown; 2013]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: post-trap, smorgaskorg, electra-coustic, thinking man’s dance-pop
Others: Deerhunter, Flaming Lips, Flying Lotus, Our Brother The Native,

Ain’t Love a Trap?

Jamaican Queens’s Wormfood is a deliciously schizoid album, as whimsical and as chemical as love itself. It varies from fuzz-crinkled, glammed-out space rock to richly resonant, surf-toned lullabies, down into some bass-throbbing, trap-hop harkening, murkily-modulated indie-rap, and back up into punctured new-wave. It never substantially toes any one style’s shore, be it vibes of melodramatic/operatic pop nor satirical, dirgey-disco-elbowed electronica. And variance is stormed through just within one four-minute song, (“Annie”) marking the middle point of the album.

Their lyrics cut to the chase of the modern fling by following love through to its inevitable conclusion: head-games, jealously, tears, heartbreak. Provocatively here, though, they then follow life through to its inevitable conclusion: where we’re all gonna wind up as worm food, right? Why waste so much time quibbling? What we have here is an eclectic blending of skuzzy-elektro pop, churning rhythms blending live-kits and sequenced beats psyching-out the dancefloor drifters while our trio of singers, strummers, and pitch-shifters deconstruct and meld together bits of playful and buoyant leftfield hip-hop to a fiercer and foreboding glitch-dotted terrain, clouded with drones and struck with bolts of distortion.

Sensitive that it’s possibly passé to read too deeply into certain facets of an album in attempt to translate what it’s trying to say, this Detroit-based trio’s debut seems to be a poetic crucifixion of the post/neo-modern Love Song, insincere and cliché as it is, exploring “expiration” as a modern generational goal. Fuck the crooner’s chivalry of everlasting love, damnation upon flowery poetry plucking heartstrings. Tomorrow could be the end. and “I wanna be with you now…” This album’s like the brain’s id that tears up your Valentine card with poetic violence while daintily kissing your cheek.

Wormfood as a debut is fearless for its blemish-baring dark provocations, showcasing their signature sensibility for plowing into the synthy-mud of a dark hip-hop ditch and snaking a post-disco groove through a throbbing quake of bass. A dazzle of atmospheric fog radiates below soaring melodies, achingly affecting a spacey, redeye lullaby. Each of the three Queens have been poking around the blacklight-luminance of experimental-pop music’s basement laboratory for the last five years with other prior Michigan touring outfits. Fickle fate brings them together for this new band, and for a serving of worm food.

So if we’re all gonna wind up as food for the lumbricus terrestris, if the party’s gotta end sometime, why take it so slow, then? Why settle down? Why waste a lyric with tired metaphor and why let the potential of a song’s instrumental orchestration go to waste? Cram it and blend it. Acoustic guitars crackling against the starry-sparkled sky of ambient space-hop. Why not? “What a wonderful goal: to expire…” singer Ryan Spencer whispers and then wails on the busily-drummed dirge-sway of “Asleep at the Wheel.” His reedy, wavy voice and the words discharged drip with gut-punched forthrightness throughout each of the eight main pieces here, waxing heavy on impermanence. If life is fleeting, then how much should we bother with love? Each song begins like we’ve fallen into the middle of a beautifully tragic novella of love gone apathetically wrong (three songs are named for a female), opening in the midst of a crumbling contract of romance, the bubble bursting (melodically, effervescently, broodingly) on yet another treacherous group-project foolishly agreed to under the intoxication of that pesky inclination that which even a nihilist can’t resist: lust.

Opening with “Water,” its clattering percussion mimics foamy tides splashing at docks while drifty acoustic guitars waft over warm purring bass sways. Our perturbed lyricist simultaneously questions and proclaims: “Ain’t love a trap? Aren’t you a mess?” From the very first lyric of that first song, his heart is taken by an ad hoc vixen, and each day hence he suffers more. And for what? (“I don’t even want her,” he quickly surmises). Meanwhile, Ryan Clancy’s drums kick in as “Water’s” bass starts buzzing more aggressively, and it affects a butane-lighter in the air ballad while Adam Pressley starts harmonizing along his vocalist partner in a rounding of separate lyrics.

“I don’t even want her/ I don’t even need the things she says… I don’t wanna do things for her/ I don’t wanna go down on her/ I don’t wanna tell you it’s the end…”

“…I tell my baby we’re just friends and then she spends the morning hanging out with them/ and lends her weekly virgin vision to the end/ I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I really am!”

The second chorus repeats^ along with: “Ain’t love a trap, aren’t you a mess? You wear it well, I need distress… You’re scared to die-alone/ I know, you could be mine/ you could be…”

We follow our lyrical narrators through arrested development of boyfriend-girlfriend-hood, never finding surefooted true love, sleeping on mattresses and asking to borrow friends’ cars. It’s a drifter’s life, and it radiates with a lulled, but contemplative cynicism.

So there’s all that heaviness going on, lyrically. And I’ve probably translated it all wrong for you. Music writing’s a treacherous gig like that. But perhaps you’ll be more intrigued to shuffle your muddied dance shoes through the melded murk of Jamaican Queens’ busty-beat-heavy, psych-folk-ruffled hip-hop haunts. The instrumental craftings are commendable, bolstered by the finishing touches of Chris Koltay’s studio, blushing with a discreet muffled glow of a dub-esque or some other post-apocalyptic dancehall aesthetic.

“I’m sorry ‘bout the Earth around you caving in,” Spencer sings later. But “don’t you try to save me.”

Love song. Lust song. Life song.

How fleeting love feels to this generation. How lonely we can all too easily become in a post-Facebook world. Yet oh how inventive we (or at least some of our up-and-coming crop of bands, like Jamaican Queens) can also become. Use it then! or “Don’t.”

Links: Jamaican Queens - Notown

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