Josh Joplin Group - The Future That Was
Reviewed by Matt Rowe on November 09, 2002
I'm sure that, by now, you have all heard the obvious references citing Josh Joplin Group as an REM soundalike with Josh Joplin's Michael Stipe-like vocals. It's a fair assessment. That's good and bad. Good in that if you are an REM fan, you can now get a satisfying disc, knowing what you're in for. Good in that, like REM's brand of cerebral rock/pop, Josh Joplin Group work well. Bad in that it lops the band in with other sound alikes. Bad because they are worthy of your attention. Well, now that we have that out of the way......
This is the second release from the band that, ironically, hails from Georgia. Although their resemblance to REM's styles are striking, they deserve inspection on their own without comparisons. With strong writing, great musicianship, and a flair for perfect songs, Josh Joplin Group is setting their territory with stakes that won't pull from the ground.
This is a disc that demands several listens in a row. The first allows you to jump in while the second and third absorbs into your brain. Every song is smart and introspective, carried in a fast vehicle of great melodies. Shockingly, all this thought and sensibility spills out of a tenth grade drop out. Never assuming intelligence because he's "...not as smart as a Sunday Times crossword puzzle..." but you'd never know it by his very intelligent take on life. With words that reveal a very questing individual that understands enough to want to know more. And hey, the bands knows how to play well, very well.
From slow ballads to rockers, this collection of 13 tunes drips with coffeeshop discussion. Using melancholy sounds from their instruments to effect Kerouac like beatnik inflections, as in the smooth heart rending "Dishes", a song about disaffection and acceptance, cruelty and merge. The disc's single, "I Am Not The Only Cowboy", a wonderful tune about everybody's need for happiness but not being the only one who suffers with this, is an excellent first choice. Again, acceptance of who we are and how we adapt, "...eventually".
Musically, this band ranks with very seasoned performers. Their beautiful weave throughout the album with it's lyrical examinations of humanity and its present psyche is the stuff of long time artists. And they offer proof of the power and splendour of nostalgic need, photos of our past to push us through life with identity and purpose. This is where the music speaks as loud as the lyrics.
If you're looking for a quality release of intellectual strength and professional musicianship, you need only to stop and give Josh Joplin a few moments of your time. They'll stay with you a lot longer than that.
PRODUCTION & PACKAGING
A very well recorded album, with clean production. Strong, up front vocals with the music mixed well to carry the vocals and enhance the nuances and power of the what the singer is singing.
The disc provides a well designed 8 page fold out insert that gives lyrics, and art, with photos of the band. Credits are provided under the seat of the disc. I liked this design. It leaves more room on the booklet for other things. The lack of notes are sorely missed. Given the type of band this is, and despite what the band may think, we genuinely want to know a little about what these guys are about.
THE FINAL SAY
This is a stellar release from a band that will continue to make inroads into our musical consciousness. I recommend that Artemis push hard here. This is a band with something to say. As a matter of fact, they sing about what we inspect within when we sit by ourselves. This is a definite buy. You won't be disappointed.
Copyright © 2002 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
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