I picked up this album over Thanksgiving at the ever-so-wonderful Crosstunes music when I was in Omaha. Actually, this record has been out for a couple of months, and I’ve know about the band before the album even came out. Well, I finally decided to pick this one up, and I’m pretty impressed.
The best way to describe Jetenderpaul is “lo-fi.” And in this case, that’s not an insult. Rather, Trying Signals displays a certain “do it yourself” (DIY) quality throughout it. But don’t expect to hear some neighborhood punk wannabe band who recorded this in their basement. Jetenderpaul recorded this gem in the bedroom. The “lo-fi” scene has been quite healthy for a number of years now, the appeal being that someone could record perfect pop songs in the comfort of their own, um, bedroom.
Jetenderpaul, is at their heart, a pop band. A skewed, messed up, slanted pop band, but a pop band no less. Song titles “The Maracas of Suspicion,” “The Last Soliloquy of Mr. Presley,” and “The Fragments of Epicurus” probably do a better job describing the angle of the band better than any words I could write. I hear strands of They Might Be Giants, Flaming Lips, and even the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Hummable pop melodies float throughout this album and then are skewered with wit and sensibility. Casio keyboards (the kind you see in finer K-Marts everywhere) are prominent on the album, especially on songs like “Extension 214.” You’ll even hear those cheesy handclaps pop up on “The Maracas of Suspicion.” To someone unfamiliar with this kind of music, the songs may seem wacky and silly, even meaningless. But underneath that veneer is a certain charm. It sounds like they decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their music, and have a heck of a good time doing it.
As the Jetenderpaul puts it, the album “was mixed and layed out so that every time the listener is to touch the play button on the C.D. player, throw in the cassette on a car stereo, or put the turntable’s needle down on the vinyl, he/she will hear quirks and passages never detected through previous listenings, yet humming the general melody of that same song that has been heard over and over again through those previous listenings.”
The lyrics aren’t included with the album, and I’m not really sure what some of the songs are about. That might bother some people, especially those looking for blatant “Praise God! We’re a bunch of Christians!” content. But to me, that adds to the interesting nature of this disk.
Jetenderpaul packs in 26 songs (all under 4 minutes) on this disc, and no two songs are quite the same. However, that much content does give the album a certain downside. With so many songs, it sometimes feels like you’re wading through the album rather than listening to it. But maybe that’s why CD players have that “Program” function. My personal favorite is “India’s Golden Gateway,” with it’s quasi-sitar and bouncy keyboard melodies. I’ve been humming it all day.
All in all, Trying Signals is definitely one of the more inventive and interesting Christian releases I’ve heard in quite some time. Jetenderpaul certainly sounds quite unlike anything else in Christian music, and frankly, that’s got me pretty excited. While not for everyone, Jetenderpaul definitely shows promise as a band to at least keep an eye on.
This review originally appeared on the Campus Impact homepage.