Jetenderpaul – Presents the Modal Lines

Presents the Modal Lines

It’s become quite clear now that the creative rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Beatles in the late 60’s produced more than two great records (Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, respectively). It has inspired more than its fair share of unimaginative hack songwriters who continually strive toward a psych-pop standard that they could not possibly be expected to meet. That being said, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Elephant 6/Kindercore pop scene. In fact, I’ve remained quite naive about the whole thing. I know enough, however, to be able to place Jetenderpaul, a band from the spectacular Burnt Toast Vinyl roster, in that twee-pop scene (and not just because their promo information would have you believe so). And while I won’t be able to tell you just exactly how much this sounds like the Apples in Stereo or Of Montreal or any of those similar bands, I can do my best to be cynical and jaded about the whole thing.
I’m really quite past expecting very much from these retro-pop bands. Their sphere of influence is often so small and insulated that incestuous and uncreative music often results. Jetenderpaul do occasionally fall under this trap, though they avoid it enough to keep me from totally hating this album. “The Design” opens the album with a whirring adrenaline rush of sugar melodies that is so abrupt you almost cringe. It starts so quickly I found myself hitting repeat on my CD player just to better absorb the one-minute flare of a song that kicks off the album. The second song, “A Readjustment,” moves into more comfortable territory with several keyboards and what sounds like a flute playing in the background.
After that, the band pretty much follows a simple formula. Keyboards (or occasionally some jangling guitars) lay the basis for the track, some psychedelic instrumentation runs circles around the track, and the singer’s good but unremarkable voice sounds slightly buried among the mix, often sounding like he’s singing underwater. This works on the standout tracks: “The Piles of Paper Left by you” rides a strong Beach Boy’s vibe, “Before You Became Princess Belltower” slows things up a little but is remarkably pretty, and the patchwork “Hudson Bay Drive” all sound remarkably good. “The Secret of the Day” and “Twenty-One” sound just enough like the Flaming Lips to keep things interesting and vary the formula a bit.
But the formula tires as well. After repeated listens, I can still hardly differentiate between “All I Wanted to Remember,” “Bonaventure (A Prototype),” and several other songs, all of which have the same sonic pieces, textures and tempos. The chiming “Breaking Candy Hearts” epitomizes the whimsical, somewhat throwaway approach of a twee-pop band. The hook line is “breaking your heart, with lollipops and sweet-tarts,” and the rest of the song sounds similarly delicate and cliched.
In the end though, Jetenderpaul come out on top more often than not, and if they aren’t a strikingly better alternative to Elephant 6 and Kindercore, they do offer yet another strong band to Burnt Toast Vinyl’s strong, diverse lineup. If you’re a big fan of this sort of throwback psych-pop, this band does about as well as anyone I’ve heard (take that with a grain of salt, please). If you’re not, don’t blame Jetenderpaul. Curse out the Beatles and the Beach Boys for their childish competition.