Friday, 10 September 2010

In praise of The Jellies

You probably missed ‘Jive Baby On A Saturday Night’ the first time around. After all, it only sold 30 copies. The Cambridge post-punk band’s biggest moment was getting the single played by John Peel in 1981. And then that was it. They disappeared into obscurity like so many other bands. Most of the single’s original pressing apparently ended up as landfill.

The song developed a bit of a cult following over the following years, and last month Johnny Trunk - a definite hero in these parts - reissued it on a lovely vinyl EP. The record’s largely sold out now, but you can buy the MP3s or find it on Spotify, and you definitely should. It’s an amazing tune; nearly five-minutes of crisp, stark repetition. The most basic of beats and bass, and then the hand claps drop. Boom! Minimal disco heaven.

What really sells it for me though, is the odd, distinctly amateurish guitar that comes in roughly half-way through. It’s so at odds with the song’s upbeat tone that the whole thing takes on an weird, nightmarish quality. Anyone who’s heard Boards of Canada’s ‘Nlogax’ will find ‘Jive Baby’ uncannily familiar. If Twin Peaks had a nightclub, they’d play this on rotation.

The reissue EP comes with remixes by Georges Vert (aka Jon Brooks), Trunk and that bloke out of Lemon Jelly. But while they’re nice bonuses, there’s a sense of gilding the lily. The song itself is stripped back perfection. Adding a bit of reverb, or reversing the vocals almost detracts from its simplicity.

You can hear 'Jive Baby On A Saturday Night' here:

You can also hear their other song, the almost identical Conversation, at WFMU here:


Machine 475 said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful review; it's so nice to be appreciated, especially 30 years later.

Richard Lewis (The Jellies)

buzzcut said...

As Richard said, what a thoughtful and gratifying review. Can't believe that people are finally listening to (and enjoying) our little record so many years after we made it. Wonderful.

Mark Tomblin (The Jellies' amateurish guitarist)

William Salmon said...

Wow! What can I say except thank you guys. I rarely update this blog, so had no idea you'd seen my review! I'm glad you liked it. I love the record, and it always seems to go down well when I DJ with it or play it at work.

Oh, and no offence was meant by the 'amateurish' bit Mark! I love the guitar on the track.

Best wishes,