A low-fi faux in need of some intention
Softness, eyes closed, head upside to side. A psychedelic vortex, a muffled ambiance made for long road trips in the rain. This is Crumb’s debut album, Jinx. It has the feeling and it has the mood, but speaking of the music, composition, detail and production quality—it has very little to offer.
The first issue with the record is that every song sounds pretty much the same. It’s one thing for an album to be consistent in the music it delivers and the way it does so, but Jinx takes that consistency too far. There is not a single track on the record that has a unique sense of identity; the drumming never ends and the vocalist stays between a few simple notes, hardly ever extending beyond her comfortable range. Arguably, these are just the characteristics of low-fi music; those who like the genre will get it, and those who don’t can just hit skip. But, there is more to it than that.
Granted, low-fi music is typically repetitive and under-produced, but too many musicians today are making rudimentary, dull music and passing it off as “low-fi” because it’s the easiest way of avoiding the fact that they can’t actually make anything better. The low-fi genre is a very deliberate kind of music and should celebrate the low fidelity of an instrument or voice, while still maintaining a technical musicality and detailed process. This is something which Crumb have unfortunately failed to achieve.
The tracks are also void of any development. They’re all rather short and end quite abruptly. Sometimes they sound as if they’re going somewhere interesting, but they never actually do. For example, the final track “Jinx” ends with a section of guitar slides doused in a kind of steamy rock energy. It really has the potential to become an indulgent celebration of the band’s capabilities. It’s exciting, and just as we think we’re about to get the climax we’ve been waiting for, it ends.
The same can be said for “Fall Down.” The track starts off with a slick vocal groove, interspersed with moments of delicate falsetto, the bass line drives the song forwards and there is a perfect conversation between the loud guitar riffs and the subdued electronic beats. Once more, however, just as people get into it, their eyes have to open again.
The album does have massive potential. If only the instrumental arrangements were deliberately thought out, rather than used merely as fillers between the vocals pauses, Crumb could really have made a debut album worth some acclaim. The opening track, “Cracking,” makes interesting use of muted horns and the combination of these orchestral instruments with the synthesized bass is inspired.
The album’s first pre-release, “Nina,” has a jazz feel to it that is both sultry and subtle, and once again is an inspired fusion of the low-fi genre with a more contemporary sound. “M.R.” starts with a warped blend of melodies, seemingly being played backward. It’s a creative opening and different to anything else the band has previously displayed. It’s what keeps people listening for just a little bit longer, and proves the band’s capacity. Had they put just a bit more thought into this experimentation, and brought these special moments closer to the forefront of their songs, the album would surely have been more gripping and engaging.
Jinx certainly does have emotion and energy that will get many eyes closed and many heads moving. They are a band new to the ropes and one can only hope that they learn from their mistakes to demonstrate that they are, in fact, capable of making a low-fi record both deliberate and unique. For the time being, however, Crumb’s music will remain to be background listening for moody teenagers driving their cars through the rain.