It’s not often that you get a band where the moniker is a complete and utter giveaway to the sonic gems within but so it proves with this lovely little record from US outfit, Jolly. For the uninitiated (and that includes your humble scribe) Jolly are a new York based prog and metal band (the “and” is important) with a plethora of influences- echoes of Muse, Meshuggah, Faith No More, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree can all be heard in their grooves- but they take those influences and construct a part of the musical universe that is very much theirs and theirs alone.
The latest album, “The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part Two)”, is the most recent in their run of concept albums. Don’t let that remark put you off- although there is undeniably a lot to digest and immerse yourself in- and it is defiantly conceptual- it’s delivered with a lightness of touch, a wry grin and a copper bottomed intelligence that has you warming to the band and their music the more you listen.
Take a listen to the single ‘Dust Nation Bleak’ as an excellent example of how you can conjure music that is immediate, heavy and melodic all the same time. The drums and guitars roar in like Meshuggah having swallowed an encyclopedia of pop choruses the song goes from dark foreboding to gossamer light within several bars but it doesn’t sound forced or arch; it’s really quite a lovely thing.
‘Golden Divide’, by stark contrast is a glorious pop song, that could quite easily have appeared on a Ben Folds or World Party record. It’s wistful, harmonious and warmhearted. ‘Lucky‘s opening keyboards are highly playful before the tune segueways into something that wouldn’t have sounded massively out of place on a Faith No More album but without Mike Patton‘s delight in the scatalogical and the misanthropic. The FNM pop echo remains through into ‘While We Slept in Burning Shades’ which is casually relaxed, deeply melodic and catchier than a cold in deep midwinter. There’s a forlorn angst in the midst of ‘As Heard on Tape’ but it’s that melancholy that you can live with and, in the right mood, warm to. It’s the sort of record you put on at 2 in the morning whilst you’re ruminating on how it all went wrong, or right. Yes, that kind of record.
When I started listening to this record, I feared that there would be a surfeit of ideas but ultimately it wouldn’t hang together in a cohesive manner. I was wrong. Yes, it’s pack with styles, influences and grooves but this is a problem, how? I love the band’s ambition, their scope and their invention. I’m not a particular fan of the phrase “ones to watch” but I do think you could do a lot worse than keep a close eye on these guys: an album laden with grooves, catchy melodies, occasional flashes of brilliance, “The Audio Guide to Happiness…” is, ultimately, a very satisfying experience.