I miss The Beach Boys. I seldom listen to them anymore. So, in searching for a substitute of my much beloved summer music I stumbled onto Jukebox The Ghost. Truly. One wonders, what makes music sound like “summer?” I spend all my summers indoors. In that aspect, I should be telling you the gloomy, sparse, chords of The Smiths is more apt to my seasons. Yet, even I always want the “Imagined Summer,” long dreamt of and perfect in its pitch. This is found in Jukebox The Ghost’s first album Let Live and Let Ghosts. Released in 2008, the album is a zany mix of feel good tunes and apocalypse.
Jazzy 1950’s piano rolls and mass destruction. Peanut butter and Jelly. Oil and Water. Apples and Oranges. Pretzels and Raspberry sorbet (okay, so that last one is just me, but you get the point.) Both Ben Thornewill (pianist) and Tommy Siegel (lead guitarist) sing and write for the band, combing their different ideas in a unique way. Siegel is all Fleetwood Mac and Peter Gabriel while Thornewill is more classist and Queen. Together, their music sounds like a poppy celebration of beach rock. The combination shouldn’t work, but it does.
Tracks such as “Hold It In” and “Victoria” are wacky infectious tunes driven by layered vocals and hyperactive instrumentals. One feels as though they’re listening to these tracks through a literal jukebox. The name is only fitting. Though the lyrics are repetitive, there’s certainly no less of a kick to them. Both of these songs deal with societal and existential pressures found within everyday experiences, but take on a satirical, tongue-in-cheek tone. “Good Day” another jaunty tune of Thornewills, begins with the lines “I think that I would like to invite everyone I’ve known/Dead and alive/ To a street where we can be/Finally free/And they will come in droves/wearing their hearts on their sleeves.” Each of these songs can easily be put on repeat with their percussive choruses and lively beats.
Tracks that are written by Tommy Siegel delve more into the conceptual side of the album. “Beady Eyes on The Horizon,” describes a woman seeing a UFO. Her visions are juxtaposed with a dream sequence of prophetic instructions and images of wreckage. “Where are all the Scientists Now?” and “Fire In The Sky” further depict these sequence of events. Only in “It’s A Matter of Time” do we get the events ending. Here, for all the catastrophic destruction there’s a sarcastic glimmer of hope.
The instrumental music elevates much of the atmosphere. In “Miss Templeton’s 7000th Dream” one feels as though they’re walking through a synthesized maze of insomnia. “Static To The Heart” and “Under My Skin” are often punctuated with sounds that are reminiscent of worldly chaos, while still harmonizing with the rolicking band-stand of the main piano and guitar. This doesn’t clash. If anything, it makes for a great contrast that surprisingly blends well throughout most of the album. This is also due to Thornewill’s superb playing. His piano work is fluent and graceful, never forced or taking away from the rest of the music. Yet, it’s exactly these intricacies that make so much of the music “pop.” Trained in classical music, he’s not afraid to show off where it counts; the technical work of the album is fitted with finesse and skill that most indie bands in Brooklyn easily lack.
While this isn’t your parents “Surfin’ USA,” there’s something refreshing about the music. The album turned ten a few months ago. Each song still remains as entertaining as it is wry. Though the topic of the apocalypse seems absurd to call lighthearted, the concept behind the songs really are. Or, at the very least, hopeful. Ending an album with the imagery of someone crawling out from underneath toppled furniture after they think the world has ended doesn’t only seem fitting some summers, but downright cheery.