Not Enough Songs about Buildings and Food
Remember the last Star Trek movie? No, not J.J. Abrams’ sexy revisionist take that is 2009’s first summer blockbuster—we’re speaking of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, where the Next Generation-era crew meet Shinzon, a human cloned from Captain Jean-Luc Picard with imperfect structure and motives. It’s a character like this that helps us form parallel descriptors of the fledgling career of Brooklyn musical duo Project Jenny, Project Jan.
Listening to their genre-hopping debut XOXOXOXOXO and a charity-fundraiser set of collaborations called The Colors EP, producer Sammy Rubin and vocalist Jeremy Haines make numerous flirtations with the classic and ultimately varied styles of post-punk legends Talking Heads. What’s so damn disappointing is that PJPJ are either unaware of the connections they make or worse, are not serious about them.
There’s some evidence this could have been an auspicious beginning to a career in jerky electro-pop. “ZooBar” and the spelled lyrics of “Personal” (from where XOXOXOXOXO pulls its title) are right in Talking Heads’ wheelhouse of nonsense. Songs like “Dia de los Ninos,” “Tourist,” and “320” mine the electro-Tropicalia typical of David Byrne’s solo work. “Pictures,” an artful but all too brief look at a desperate obsession, most strongly hints at opportunity missed.
Project Jenny, Project Jan, however, have too many songs tailing off towards ugly, parodying extremes. “Games,” “Baby’s,” and “Talking” don’t rise far beyond white-boy rap and dancehall, a boundary around which Byrne’s non sequiturs managed to tiptoe. There are also serious thematic misfires masquerading as musical diversity, among them the countrified “Summertime” and acoustic tramp song “Brooklyn.” XOXOXOXOXO ultimately recalls a middling roster of occasionally rapped stoner alt-rock that’s pretty-to-very good when it works (Soul Coughing, Cake) and god-awful when it doesn’t (Pepper, The Transplants), and a lot of it simply doesn’t work.
Meanwhile, the biggest problem on Colors is that Project Jenny, Project Jan essentially fail to show up for it. The only tracks of consequence include the So Percussion vehicle “You Said” and the groovy “Pins and Needles,” a high point in the Fujiya & Miyagi catalog regardless of any beat or vocal discernible as actually coming from Project Jenny, Project Jan. Indeed, they could take a lesson from a band like Fujiya & Miyagi, whose minimalism and measured absurdity go a longer way towards good Talking Heads comparisons than PJPJ seemingly ever will.