After months of anticipation, the new Vox Jaguars' self-titled CD has been released on Anodyne Records. In mid-January, I received a special edition*(1) advanced copy of the Vox Jaguars to review, and now that I've heard it more than a dozen times, I feel that I'm prepared to comment on one of this year's best records.
I've been paying attention to the Vox Jaguars since I happened upon one of their live shows at Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, California about three years ago. What surprised me most about the show was that the audience, (and there seemed to be about a hundred of them crammed into the small room), knew the songs and sang along as if they were part of the band. I thought of the Cavern in Liverpool and the energy and comradary that must have existed there among early Beatle fans. It isn't every day that I see an audience so enthralled with a band, and that night, the patrons at Pergles were at one with the Vox Jaguars.
It wasn't long til the Vox Jaguars recorded a demo*(2) CD at the home studio of a friend. The exceptionally well recorded demo featured four completed tracks exhibiting plenty of musical variety and skill. The demo received quite a bit of notoriety and it seemed only natural when the Vox Jaguars' popular song, Swagger,*(3) was featured on the major prime time FOX Television program, Canturbury's Law. Producers of the show had stumbled upon the song on the Vox Jaguars' My Space page, and negotiated its use on the show.
Now, The Vox Jaguars have released their first CD, and it is sure to be popular among the indie generation in general, and spread in popularity to a broader audience in the years to come.
Beyond their darling and daring youthfulness, what makes The Vox Jaguars interesting, is the precision and power with which they play their upbeat clever and catchy songs. Smarter than punk, but not too technical for the uninitiated ear, this band has successfully drawn upon a long eclectic history of music to come up with a sound uniquely their own.
Something that can't go unnoticed at a live Vox Jaguars performance, is the display of teamwork between their powerful percussionist and bassist who keep the band timely and intriguing. Trevor Hope is truly an incredible drummer who's intricate percussion is perfectly augmented by master bassist, Mason Rosenberg. The two sound as though they've been playing together forever. This foundational backbone establishes a powerful template for high school student Jordan Topf to present his songs about teen struggle, and modern dilemma. I find it surprising that this CD exhibits a subtle LA nuance. I keep expecting Jim Morrison to belt out something ridiculous... that notion amuses me.
The current line up of the Vox Jaguars includes newest member, Noah Bond on lead guitar*(4) and voices, Jordan Topf on guitar*(5) and voices, Trevor Hope on drums, and Mason Rosenberg on bass.*(6) The lineup on the new CD features former band member Sam Copperman on keyboards. Sam recently left the band to attend to his higher education. The Vox Jaguars have not replaced him with another keyboardist, and don't plan to any time soon. Rather, they picked up high school senior Noah Bond to play guitar, and he is working out wonderfully. Noah plays like a pro and provides the ensemble with a rich round sound. A favorable addition to an already great band. There is still room for keyboards in my opinion.
I like the new self-titled release by the Vox Jaguars very much, and will surely play it on my hi-fi many more times. I think four clever boys could have come up with a more suitable title for this release however. If I had been given the opportunity to name the new Vox Jaguars CD, I would have turned their name into an anagram, such as, Jug Has a Vortex, or called it something controversial and relevant like, Obama's War Now, but I'm just an old punk who still likes to ruffle feathers. It's like eating peanuts...
The Vox Jaguars, on Anodyne Records.
*(1) My special edition copy of The Vox Jaguars arrived in a standard hard plastic case, however a more environmentally-friendly paper-box version is currently available on line and in fine stores everywhere.
What makes this special packaging unique, is the inclusion of a segment of broken guitar string from one of the instruments played by the Vox Jaguars.
The guitar string is clearly visible through the usually empty plastic window on the left-edge of the CD case. I love it when this space is used for something other than nothing at all.
*(2) The Vox Jaguars Demo CD titled, Good as Gone, rivals the new release, and in some ways is preferable to it. The songs on Good as Gone are recorded so well that they could have been included on the new release as bonus tracks. I hope Good as Gone will one day be made available again. My copy is worn out.
*(3) A new version of Swagger is the only song from the demo that has made it's way onto the new CD. Not even Metropolis, the most beloved of all the Vox Jaguars songs, appears on this new release. I should also note that the Canterbury's Law season one DVD, (featuring Swagger), will be released on February 24th, 2009. If we're lucky, they'll also release a Canterbury's Law soundtrack and include the original version of Swagger.
*(4) Noah plays a Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster
*(5) Not surprisingly, Jordan plays a Fender Jaguar
*(6) Mason usually plays an Ibanez Roadstar but lately has been seen with a Specter*(7) at some of their shows. Most of the tracks on the new CD sound as if a different bass was being played.