"No one in our band is in it for their ego. It's all about the songs"
The above is a quote from guitarist Stuart MacLeod and it summarizes Eskimo Joe in a nutshell. No pretension. No bullshit. No ridiculous grandiose prose-filled promo sheet. Just an album that that lets the music do the talking and speaks volumes in the process.
Black Fingernails, Red Wine is only the band's third album since forming in 1997 but it shows full-well that while they may not be the most prolific cats in the yard, they know how to put together a solid album from start to finish. While Black Fingernails, Red Wine may not be the best album of the year, it's in the running for one of the most consistent.
Australia has always and will always be an anomaly when it comes to music. Look at the chart today and you'll find international artists that are omnipresent on most North American charts and a plethora of indigenous artists that we have no idea about. Delta Goodrem? Missy Higgins? Rogue Traders? Anyone? I thought not.
Every few years there'll be a band that breaks free of the aboriginal chains and creates a ripple in the still waters of the North American eardrum that can be worthy (Silverchair, Powderfinger) or unworthy (Jet, The Vines) depending on who you ask.
Eskimo Joe should be the next worthy band for people in this hemisphere to talk about. A three-piece hailing from Perth, their songs bring to mind (and this is more due to crisp, clean, self-assured vocals of bassist Kavyen Temperley as opposed to the songwriting) another great Australian import, INXS. The songwriting can be somewhat reminiscent as well, particularly evident in the title track, but INXS had a maddening habit of over-thinking and over-producing songs that didn't need the bells and whistles, whereas Eskimo Joe take more of a less-is-more approach that do the songs justice. This isn't to say the arrangements are sparse, mind you. Temperley, MacLeod and drummer/keyboardist Joel Quartermain fill each song with exactly what's needed to make it work. No more, no less. No muss, no fuss.
What should be top ten singles in a perfect world, album opener "Comfort You" and "Breaking Up" are both perfect examples of what a "pop rock" song should be. Catchy, memorable. Unobtrusive, yet unforgettable. Something you can listen to in the car or at work without anyone asking you to change channels or turn off. Bear in mind, I use the term "pop rock" in the context that it should be used. Not as it would commonly be applied to the likes of Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5 or other bands with numbers in their name that, while popular make some of the most boring goddamn music this side of hell, whose current playlist also includes Third Eye Blind and Three Doors Down and dare I say, Coldplay who are the sole band played on the station now heard in circles 5 through 9 of the netherworld.
Coldplay comparisons could fairly/lazily be made, I suppose - as the piano features prominently in numerous songs, but again - this is a band that incorporates all instruments into the common good, no one thing dominating the other. I refer you again to the quote at the beginning of this review. Being "only about the songs" is not as common as you would think but it's certainly the way things should be, because anything else is just white noise.