I’ve been jamming this record a lot as I’ve been freezing my ass off in these colder than death, pre- winter(!) months. I keep hoping that these fun, tropical pop/punk sounds will transport me to June in that Millennium Falcon on the sleeve. No such luck yet but I have gotten to listen to this record a lot which is a reward in itself.
After their Minutemen-tribute (whom they also thank in the final track) The Mike Watt EP, Jet Packs is The Widow Babies' debut LP or half of an LP to be more exact, though since they crammed 13 tracks on a single-side I’m calling it a full-length.
“Harp of 1000 Strings” sets the tone for the record. A killer jangly, clean-tone arpeggio drives the track with a surf-rock-meets-a-steel-drum vibe. The rest of the band gives the guitarist steady backing as exuberant female vocals snark their way through the song. “Possibilities at Sea” finds the rhythm section getting into the grooves with machine gun snare hits and some great rubber band basslines. The track, like many of the others, morphs a little during its minute and a half length, carrying the same spirit throughout but avoids falling into the standard verse/chorus format. “Pyramids” has another killer riff (the record is full of them) and some of the vocalist’s best work when she falls into an effortless, relaxed nearly speech-like vocal-style that I hope she explores more in the future. Perhaps my favorite on the record is “Carmen y Pipo” which has the best opening riff on the record and each member is totally on point. The song just comes together beautifully. “Arboreal Womb” has a great breakdown and then out of nowhere the band busts out a bombastic howl then switches gears again to nervy free jazz in the span of about 15 seconds before calling it quits. “Brillo Pad’s Theme” is another highlight cause it’s one of the best written, thought-out songs on the album. The various syncopated parts lock together tightly and the guitar plays a more subtle role adding melodic shading more than central riffs. I like “Moon Milk” a lot too cause it changes things up a little with the excellent addition of marimba. The marimba and guitar basically mirror each other during an extended melodic breakdown on the first go round so when the guitar ends the piece with the same melody it seems different, more solitary and focused. It’s a really simple trick but it’s effective in adding an extra punch to the finale. And it’s just a great melody anyway. “Odin’s Rainbow” kicks the energy back up after the slower “Moon Milk” with great raw and riotous drumming. The half-time ending of “Score for a Migration” is a nice change-up leading into “Silver or Lead,” another favorite. It’s got a bunch more great guitar melodies and spirited vocals. “We Can Clone an Orange” closes out the album with a more straightforward rhythm and even a lilting bass breakdown.
It’s a fun record for sure, more fun than even the Star Trek/Star Wars references on the sleeve, and my only real criticism is that each song is cut from the same jittery, tropical pop cloth. It’s a pleasure to listen to but the songs, though good, do sound very similar to each other. But considering people listen to the same drone over a 20 minute side, this criticism is more of a suggestion to broaden the palette than calling out a harmful problem. The Widow Babies obviously have their shit down, they make a mean jangly, loose-limbed pop song, so I would be interested to see what other directions they can push their sound into. I bet the results would be something pretty great.
So the jams are real good but I must mention what a damn fine job olFactory did putting this together. The LP comes on clear vinyl with the tunes on one-side and a bright blue design screen printed on the flipside consisting of a giant snake chasing its tail and has fun items such a cop car and a handgun in its belly. There’s also a figure (maybe a surfer?) running along outer edge, flipbook-style. And since the record is clear you can watch it all while listening! Pretty sweet… I have say I was pretty blown away when I first opened it up.
So, anyway if this sounds like your thing then you got a record to buy.