Sunday, 20 January 2008

Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong


Having seen this band at Cabaret Voltaire (Edinburgh) on Friday evening, here are some thoughts:

The most interesting thing about Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jongs is that Joe Lean is a narcissistic fantasist. All that crap about being on Peep Show and Nathan Barley is just PR bullshit – do you remember seeing him? Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter – it gives him a link to two of the most revered British comedies of recent years among Joe Lean’s target demographic. Meanwhile, his claimed appearance in a Simon Schama documentary gives him the “cultured intellectual” tag, leading to critics saying ridiculous things like their harmonies are “derived from 1950s doo-wop” (which is true only in the sense that all pop music derives something from all previous pop music). Of course, he says the Razorlight comparisons are lazy. He wouldn’t want his cool band to be associated with such tripe. But comparisons have to be made to bands that a reader might recognise, and they do sound a lot like Razorlight! Perhaps there is some obscure indie troupe who are better comparisons, but if they’re obscure then there’s little point in journalists comparing them, and if they’re obscure it’s probably because they’re not as good as Razorlight. “Not as good as Razorlight”. So in that sense, Joe Lean should be grateful that his band is being compared to a reasonably successful group, instead of griping that his act is somehow superior. That’ll be because he’s cultured, y’see, it must be better, just as Stella Artois must be quality lager, because it’s “reassuringly expensive”.

Clearly, I wouldn't be saying any of this if it wasn't a reaction (/backlash\) against all the hype they've been getting (mostly NME fuelled, predictably enough). They finished seventh on the BBC's Sound of 2008 poll, which admittedly usually focuses on artists who will be commercial successes (rather than cow-towing to snooty critics like me). So this is just part of the process of weeding out the Radio 1 indie-pish from stuff which I might actually be interested in ('moan the fourth-placed Glasvegas!). Adele and Duffy, at numbers 1 and 2 respectively, aren't half as insulting as JL&JJJ. Adele's triumph seemed like a boring fait accompli: with her debut single being A-listed by Radio 1 two weeks ago, it's hardly pushing the boat out to suggest she'll be a success (whereas eg. Glasvegas aren't even officially signed yet).

What bothers me about Joe Lean is both a) how jaw-droppingly dull their music is, and b) how they tick every box for popular success except the one marked 'tunes'. So we're now about to find out just how important that tick-box is, when we might have naively assumed before that it was the most important box, or even the only box that mattered. I'm not even referring to tunes-I-like, as if that's ever been anything to do with success. I can understand why Razorlight and the Kaiser Chiefs and the View are successful indie-pop bands, even though they're not my cup of tea. If I was paid a lot of money and granted a pseudonym, I could wax lyrical about the genius of Johnny Borrell or Kyle Falconer. JL&JJJ have even less than that. It would take the most imaginative PR agent in the world to run a spiel about how great their music is (rather than concentrating on the back-story, or the apparently charisma of the singer...)

Check out this interview in the Guardian: he bullshits all the way through it, makes up lies just to fill column inches, because he knows that most band interviews are as dull as ditch-water. And then when he says "I want to make music that a tribe in Papua New Guinea can relate to", I don't know whether to laugh or cry. But I'm sure he's not stupid enough to actually believe that: again, he just knows which boxes he has to tick.

Look like Richard Ashcroft tick
Connection to established demographic pleasing TV shows tick
Connection to percieved high-art TV show tick
Connection to other much-meh'd indie band
Be all mashed on-stage, dance like a tit tick
Fashion errrr something tick
Say interesting things in interviews so that article is read allthewaythrough tick
Say controversial things in interviews that inspire bloggers to rant = boost internet presence tick
and what about the music?

ok, NME approval
? tick tick tick tick tick

I have already spent more time on this band than they deserve, and so have you if you have got this far reading this post. So stop.


Ian said...

I made the mistake of listening to their myspace samples while reading this. I like Razorlight more.

Nick said...

hahahaha! goes to show that spleen-venting is a lot more humourous, productive (and guid) than the usual breathless veneration...

now i feel ashamed that i gave their song a swiftly determined luke-warm comment in my february singles round-up.

well done though.