Much has been made of Jaguar Love‘s pedigree- both singer Johnny Whitney and guitarist/partner in crime Cody Votolato emigrated from notorious hardcore band The Blood Brothers, and their first album featured Jay Clark, drummer from Pretty Girls Make Graves, pounding out the nervous beats that stuttered underneath Johnny’s unique style of high-pitched scream-singing. That album, 2008′s Take Me to the Sea, was an anxious, paranoid look at a world overrun with materialistic tendencies and referenced everything from Southern rock ballads to 70s era prog rock. Hologram Jams, their just released follow-up, is Jaguar Love’s first album on their new label, Fat Possum, and their first album recorded without a live drummer. Clark left the band shortly before the launch of their first tour, purportedly due to Votolato’s growing interest in drum programming and synthetic beats.
Much like the incomprehensible behavior of teenagers, this album is a curious rebellion against everything that made Take Me to the Sea so urgent and raw. The unpolished buzzsaw guitars and staccato rhythms have been replaced by shimmering synth lines and standard indie dance rock beats that bear more than a passing resemblance to The Faint circa 2001. Whitney’s vocals are as razor-sharp as ever, but there’s something disconcerting about hearing him sing lines like ‘We stayed up all night/And saw the sun come up.” Or “sugar-coated cherry soda/puking on the lawn,” from the aptly named ‘Cherry Soda.’ The vapid, let’s-party! nature of many of the songs makes them instantly forgettable, slipping across the surface of your mind like the crimson drink of ‘Polaroids and Red Wine,’ which is itself a stereotypical idea of what American Apparel clad teens consider a good night spent with friends.
Packed with generic dance-party tracks like ‘Everything is Awesome’ and ‘Up All Night’, you can listen to Hologram Jams three-quarters of the way through without really stopping to listen until you get to the last song. Their unidentified cover of Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my Heart’ is bewilderingly unsteady and lurches along without a sense of purpose, unless that purpose was to make me want to listen to the original as quickly as possible. While it’s commendable, if unnecessary, that Whitney and Votolato are exploring new musical areas, there’s no denying the fact that if Take Me to the Sea ever ran into Hologram Jams in a dark alley, Hologram would be down for the count.