Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jay Gonzalez - Mess Of Happiness

Once again, the wonderful Interplanet Janet joins us for an album review, this time for the amazing debut album from Jay Gonzalez.

Jay Gonzalez
Mess of Happiness

You may or may not know Jay Gonzalez as the keyboard player from the band Drive-by Truckers. I would like to introduce you to his first album flying solo. But first, rewind to a couple months ago. I received the album not really sure what to expect since I hadn’t previously heard anything by the Drive-by Truckers. I was delighted because the songs were like the type my friends and I loved years ago. We would take refuge in them when our usual shoegaze, grunge and alt-rock got to be just too much. We would point out certain observant and amusing lyrics, laughing away our seemingly huge but-you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet teenage troubles. Fun, clever, retro-pop, that back in the 70s and 80s might have been called “rock” because the songs contain a few guitar solos. I listened to Mess of Happiness carefully, smiled and thought Music used to be so fun. Why is my music collection so serious these days?  This question hung over me like Beijing smog.

Let’s examine the album in more detail. I’m not going to list all Jay Gonzalez’s influences, but if you are interested, you can find them posted on— the pop greats Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson feature. This is demonstrated in the quality of the songwriting with an added dose of humour and a dash of not-taking-oneself-too-seriously. Let me assure you though, that the unique and amusing nature of the album (which crosses over into the videos that are well worth a look) does not mean the listener has to sacrifice quality.

 These are fine, well-crafted pop songs; well-sung and packed with personality. The random samples of sound that appear throughout, a child’s voice for example, only add to it’s charm. Some of the further influences I picked up on are Glen Campbell, ABBA, Wings and even the early 90s power-pop  band, Jellyfish— but I’m not sure what Jay would say about that. It does go to show that this is a very eclectic bunch of songs and that a listen is essential.
It’s not easy to choose a few standout tracks because they all have something noteworthy about them, but I will start with the brilliantly-titled Turning Me On. Once upon a time, we made mixtapes. If after hearing this poptastic gem you do not have the immediate urge to put this on a mixtape for someone then there’s something wrong with you.
Also noteworthy is the punchy, peculiar and bass-heavy Skinny Little Fingers. It’s hard to place this song. Part of me feels it belongs nestled in an episode of Scooby-Do for it’s faux-scary murder mystery narrative. Also, if you are like me and enjoy compiling Halloween-themed mixtapes, this track would be perfect. I should add that Gonzalez gets a bumper pack of extra points from me for the insertion of “Teenage Fanclub” in the lyrics. If there is indeed such a thing as a Teenage Fanclub shiny mac, I want one and I want it now.

This is what I have decided. Mess of Happiness is an album that is needed in your record collection right now because it’s probably so unlike what is in your record collection right now. I admit I’ve been pretty big into deeply serious and tortured singer-songwriters who take you through their seemingly impossible quest for love and acceptance.  I honestly have no intention of ditching them but there needs to be a balance. You need to hang out with a funny friend for a while, not just the friend with all the drama permanently attached.  Interestingly, like the funny friend, you will find this album also has considerable depth under the surface. This is especially evident in it’s examination of relationships with friends and lovers. For example, in the tracks Short Leash, I Urge You and Louisa.

I’m pleased to have this album because it has forced me to realise the reason why my record collection has become so serious is because I have become so serious. The teenage me would regard this as a tragedy. All the more reason why, starting with Mess of Happiness, this should be the year for music to make you smile. Despite the mess.

Interplanet Janet

Contact, befriend, follow, like and love Jay Gonzalez here: Facebook

Visit Jay Gonzalez Official web site for more music and photos here:

Buy "Mess of Happiness" at the following links:

iTunesAmazoneMusic  Bandcamp

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