The long awaited Jaakko & Jay debut album starts with a critical advisory message warning the listener (or the critic) that music is for listening and not for analyzing and writing about it. However, these two young fellows would probably agree with me that doing what I am told to do would be incoherent with the free punk attitude they preach with their music. Therefore, I will not follow their advice and I will try to write something clever about this release.
The duo has become one of the most exciting live acts this year with a rudimentary acoustic punk folk, so the question was if they would be able to transfer that energy to the studio. The answer is yes… partly. With 13 songs and clocking at 35 minutes (including various types of interludes), ‘War is Noise’ includes 2-minute fast-paced tunes raging about society, music, politics, love and life. Fortunately, the lyrics are included in the booklet, so there is no excuse to miss message. The formula is easy and effective: a few high speed chords, a single snare drum and a good melody, and they had the good sense of not trying to complicate the songs in the studio with many unnecessary ornaments. Yes, in some songs there are some extra backing vocals, guitars, some percussion and even some banjo and fiddle, but those additions and overdubs are well placed in different songs and the global feeling is that the album was pretty much cut live in the studio, which is a contradiction with the cold feeling the album has. The problem is, and here comes the negative thing, is that the recording sounds too clean and stiff. It feels too calculated for a punk / folk album.
Still, Jaakko & Jay and this ‘War is Noise’ are a quite unique product with very good songs such as Keep In Touch, What’s The Point If There’s No View, or Walls & Bars. They also understand that not everything is broken guitar strings and smashed drumsticks and they open their sound to new textures, like the Pogues influenced Folk Song or the hidden untitled folkie ballad at the end of the record.
Despite its defects, these rural White Stripes have come up with one of the strongest releases this year and I am sure we will hear much about them in the coming in the comments. Meanwhile they are touring Europe opening for Frank Turner.