Jim Yoshii Pile-Up

Homemade Drugs
/absolutely kosher; 2002/

rating : I don’t like to give marks to albums but Barbara ‘the boss’ H compels me: 8



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The first contact to this new album by The Jim Yoshii Pile-up is its splendid cover: a photograph of a derelict alley on which the sun hardly wants to shine down. It is not yet overgrown with ground ivy and not totally dirty or filled with trashes. It is in a state of transition, which particularly represents the group’s evolution. Indeed, while the previous album – It’s Winter Here – was a mixture of sadcore and emocore, its successor – Homemade Drugs – is oriented towards sad-pop atmospheres. Sharp crescendos of guitar waves give way in this new full-length to lush interweaving guitar melodies. The Jim Yoshii Pile-up could have been Codeine’s successor but the band has apparently chosen to take another way. Gone are the layers of guitars in the favour of lush arrangements, which sound great but tend to make the songs a bit mainstream. No more swirl of guitars and shoegazing passages! There still are some slowcore moments but the charming mid-tempo harsh riffs tend to give way to slower songs. The production is neat compared to the previous album and the voice is mixed to the front now, which consequently draws much more attention. Even though his voice regularly creates moments of déjà vu, Paul Gonzenbach sings well and conveys a great amount of emotion here and there (“double negative”, “middle harbor road”, “a deep deep lake”, “reckless driving”). The only problem is that he manages to sound as Karate’s charismatic Geoff Farina (or Van Pelt’s impressive Chris Leo) and Nada Surf’s front-man in the same song.

 Homemade Drugs opens with “In focus” cryptic arpeggios which foreshadow an agitated atmosphere but the song quickly calms down and then builds an incredibly lush instrumental crescendo which does not yield to cathartic noise à la Mogwaï. And that’s fine. Melancholy is there right from the start, invading softly your ears. “Distance” is a mid-tempo repetitive ballad half-way to sadness. Then comes the awesome “Middle Harbor Road”, my favourite song on the album. From here (France), the lyrics tend to represent a particular aspect of American society: the people’s  relation to weapons (“they are selling guns on the corner, maybe we should reconsider how much do they want”). The first words of the song are ‘This isn’t life, this isn’t ok.” I guess so… The song’s great sense of despair could have really been appropriate for Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine soundtrack, especially played to the moment when the film retraces the Columbine events. “If we don’t take sides, will we slip by unnoticed ?” ask the lyrics. Well, guns kill innocent souls everyday, right ?? The piano-guitars interplay added to the downcast singing conveys so much intimate weariness that the song becomes highly emotional. And when you’re emotional, it often becomes hard to know what you want. “How much is it worth to you ?” utters the singer with a fragile voice at the end of the song. The last notes resonate feebly… and you need to press the ‘repeat’ button.

I guess “Haunted Rooms” is aimed at conveying an impression of haunted rooms. It succeeds in doing so: you’ll have an impression of a room from which emanates the presence of its owner. The problem is that without the owner being physically present, it is clearly boring. Half of the tracks are rather quiet songs filled with delicate interweaving melodies (and occasional crescendos conveying frustration) apparently dealing with thoughts given to former lovers (“3+1”, “reckless driving”, “lines drawn”).

“A deep deep lake” and “double negative “ contain fine traces of a past emocore history. Without these two songs, the album would be far too slow-moving. “A deep deep lake” greatly alternates dynamic and dissonant guitar riffs interplay (owing to a great use of stereo) with quiet passages echoing those of “Middle harbor road” and turgid spoken words with delicate singing. ‘Double Negative” is a great calm verse / agitated chorus song. The chorus intensifies gradually and generates a bittersweet feeling. The guitar riff may remind one of Slint, less dismal though. Mid-tempo is perfect here for the melodies to develop their plain melancholy. A transition’s melancholy: when you do something and you don’t know whether you’re right or not: “It’s a lie, it’s my love song to you, it’s a lie…” I guess that’s the line you unconsciously keep in mind when the music’s over… Who lies to whom ?? maybe you lie to yourself and you don’t really like yourself…after all…


ps: Anyway, it’s very hard for me to say something bad about an Absolutely Kosher group now that Barbara offered me one of their t-shirts… *smiley*

/dec 1st 2002/