JuJu - Our Mother Was A Plant

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2017-09-22

Getting old is tough. Déjà vu is a daily occurrence, and it’s hard sometimes to figure which version of the repeated event is the real deal. It’s a chicken and the egg thing, and it’s very confusing. Heck, I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie.

Well, this album is one of those more enjoyable flashbacks. The music is a universe of its own making forged out of the better elements found in those wonderful German progressive bands, known with great affection to us all as Krautrock. It’s all here: the minimalism of Neu!; the Solar-Music of Grobschnitt; the guitar rock of Guru Guru; the repetition of Kraftwerk; the ethnic influences of Embryo and Agitation Free, the quirky funky sound of Kraan, and the seldom mentioned but great cerebral hard rock of Out of Focus.

In truth, this band JuJu is the work of Sicilian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti, who apparently was in a band called Lay Llamas. So let’s come clean and just admit that I love the guy’s drumming and guitar prowess. Capra Informis from the band Goat lends a handy djembe (a skin-covered goblet drum) on a few tracks, and in fairness, there is a slight similarity with the music of that Swedish band; but Goat is very ritualistic and tribal (and apparently one great live band). JuJu is really a meticulously arranged rock band that develops great progressive momentum through several interesting movements within each song.

It all starts with “Death by Beautiful Things” which isn’t a seismic shift away from Pink Floyd’s first venture into cosmic music, but this has the modern audio enhancement that’s akin to one of those amazing Hubble Telescope photos of deep space. It also possesses the sonic comfort of the before-mentioned solar explorations of Grobschnitt. All right, just when the safety belts and Controls are Set for the Heart of the Sun, the music changes in the second song as it rocks with all the backing track guitar gusto of some long lost outtake from (my beloved) Budgie, who, in all fairness, had song names to match with this album’s own lovely title, My Mother Was a Plant.

Incidentally, this album must be somehow related to the Canterbury band Quiet Sun because they had a song called “Mummy was an asteroid; daddy was a small non-stick kitchen utensil.” Both bands should take one of those genealogy tests that are advertised all the time to prove their common heritage.

By the way, that second song, “In A Ghetto,” after a vocal section that sounds like it beams in from somewhere way past the Star Trek Neutral Zone, comes to some sort of a musical moment of afflatus at the 3:53 mark when what sounds like a zurma (made recently famous by King Gizzard’s Stu Mackenzie) accelerates this music into an Eastern vibe overdrive. Then the whole thing is wound into a pretty tight wah wah guitar finale.

“And Play a Game” introduces a piano into the mix to compete with yet another funky bass line. Now, I’m not a big fan of drum and bass dance music. And that’s a big part of this music’s ethos. But the repetition is matched with inventive guitar magic that is equal parts psych and hard rock. No one unfortunately remembers the great band Stray, but the extended guitar sound rekindles the work of the Del Bromham on that band’s first record. The same is true for “James Dean.” This is very good hard rock that has a Procol Harum like organ solo that emerges in the midst of the mayhem.

Actually, it is fair to say that quite a bit of interesting stuff somehow manages to emerge in the midst of all this mayhem.

Yeah. For a few moments, “I Got Your Soul” sounds a bit like Jethro Tull’s “Living in the Past.” That’s not a bad thing at all. And then it plays itself into a weird and loveable pulse of a very different song.

What an odd concoction of a tune!

There is more. “Patrick” is urgent with massed vocals, and, again, wonderful percussion. Of course, “What a Bad Day,” with its nine minute plus stamina, plays rock music with all its epic power and persuasion. This song lifts weights. Clever electronic bits color the music in mid-song. I suppose this is pretty good danceable music. I don’t know. To quote a really awful Genesis record, “I can’t dance.” I just like rock music, so I know this is pretty great rock music, too.

And the very last song, “Sunny After Moon” is all breezy electronics with a light summer’s day touch on the guitar. I suppose it’s a happy end to the journey. Capra Informis rejoins the troupe with a bit of his djembe. Again, this is ethic music that hopefully expands the frontal lobe of this planet Earth. And this music probably takes all of us to a better place than we are at this moment in history.

So this record makes me feel good. It sort of validates all those days shifting through vinyl imported albums in hopes of a great and mysterious find. I did that way back when. I still do that today.  Einstein is probably correct, and time may well be a curve; and just perhaps, we all star in our own personal version of that perennial classic movie Groundhog Day.

 

 

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