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Duvet Says See This! Paris' Jamaica Hit SF's Independent And It's Off With Your Head! Or, They Be Jammin, So I Hope You Like Jammin Too...

They be jamming...I hope you like jamming too.
Debut albums in the age of the internet rarely contain the surprise they once had for music listeners. Often, albums or tracks are leaked on the net weeks, months and even years before the "official release date". So how do you combat verdicts being rendered based purely on a few tastemakers dismissals or approvals? I say see the band live! In the case of Paris' Jamaica, I had the opportunity to see their San Francisco debut at last year's Treasure Island Music Festival. At the time, only a couple of singles and remixes of their songs, "Short & Entertaining" and "I Think I Like U 2" were all that were available. I watched their show with open ears and an open mind. I came away with a love of their harder-than-expected guitar driven pop and hooky tunes. The April 12th stateside release of their debut, No Problem, was reviewed more based on the fact that they come from the same country as French MEGA-STARS Phoenix and the other big name countrymen who helped record and produce it. So let's drop the obligatory names of Justice's Xavier De Rosnay and Daft Punk's sound engineer Peter Franco who helped produce No Problem. For Jamaica members Antoine Hilaire and Florent Lyonnet the real achievement will be how deftly they navigate out of the rut of interviewers focusing their questions on the above rather than on the below.

What I love about Jamaica is their unabashed embrace of the riff. This is not to say that every riff is breaking new ground, in fact there is a "same-y" sound to some of songs on No Problem. But what excites is the attack and crisp approach to what is essentially a RAWK album - that if it is guilty of anything - is catchy as hell and unapologetic in its love for a bygone era, where these types of records were the norm. The production is updated for the digital universe we inhabit, with great detail attributed to the separation of the various instrument tracks. This is one of the cleanest sounding recordings I've heard all year. Guitars enter in and drop out only to reappear and coalesce around really BIG hooks. The bottom end on this record is HUGE, well-rounded and suited for the dance floor. Overall, No Problem has the kind of punch that makes me reminisce to a time when I rode in souped-up Camaros to the Days on the Green of my youth. Like fellow lovers of late 70's- 80's guitar crunch, Free Energy, Jamaica are tuneful and more importantly FUN! Not every release needs to be rated on its relevancy to some greater understanding of the universe. Some records are for putting on at the house as you get ready to go out and search for the same feeling that got you out the door.

The men of Paris' Jamaica
From album opener "Cross the Fader" singer/guitarist Antoine Hilaire puts you on notice that he is not shy about his guitar playing. His voice and delivery is smooth as honey and augmented by some nice high harmonies and thunderous bass playing by counterpart Lyonnet. All the instruments on this record are perfectly separated in the mix, with a combo of live drumming doubled up by matching electronic beats. The sound is thick and tight and a guitar tone lover's dream record. Some songs like "Secrets" feel disposable on first listen but are a ripe for remixes if entrusted in the right hands. That's the beauty of No Problem, it has layers to it that warrant investment. One standout is "Jericho", initially it comes off as a retred of Lou Reed's classic "Sweet Jane" but actually reveals a fun take on a riff that has been borrowed well before Reed. If critics held every band up to the standard of how much ground was broken with a release we could dismiss half of the releases that come across our desk and currently clutter up music blogs. Case in point, "The Outsider", a song I was almost sure I had heard earlier in the album but I liked it the first time and liked this one too. So should I burn the record? Or should I appreciate the bridge and inventive solo that was unique to the track? That is part of the critics job as well, appreciating potential and evaluating a band on where they are in their careers. Jamaica is in its infancy and I refuse to smother it as it lies happy and wide-eyed in the cradle. "By the Numbers" and "Junior" feature Jamaica's driving, jittery, punch and pop. These songs are tributes to the type of music that were topping charts all through the 80's and are done with reverence, not apology. 

The best way to experience this album is by seeing the band live in a club. Jamaica are an air-tight and engaging band on stage. The songs make you want to shake and move, not ponder the importance or relevance of what you're hearing coming out of the PA. They are headlining SF's Independent on Tuesday April 26 with Chain Gang of 1974. I guarantee that a GREAT time will be had by all. No one will be dwelling on what Pitchfork said or crossing their arms in an attempt to dissect the similarities between them and Phoenix. In fact, when Hilaire goes into one of his blistering guitar solos, all you'll want to do is raise your lighter, grateful you're not at home in front of a computer, reading what other people are saying about a band YOU like and shouldn't have to explain or justify why. Listen to this week's "What Duvet Said...About Music" for an interview with the men of Jamaica and for a live review here on the blog.

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