Jon James | Au Contraire

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Au Contraire

by Jon James

Chest-beating, Pop-stained, Hyper-melodic, Finger-in-your-eye ROCK-n-ROLL
Genre: Rock: Rock & Roll
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Prologue: Blue Balls
3:14 $0.99
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2. Happy Hour
2:40 $0.99
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3. Cowboy Harmony
3:49 $0.99
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4. Cherrycake
3:40 $0.99
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5. Big Bang Scene
3:12 $0.99
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6. Intermission: Suck Face Abstract
0:42 $0.99
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7. Ballerina No. 1
4:40 $0.99
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8. Snake Oil (Beautiful Delusion)
4:14 $0.99
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9. Crash Car Superstar
3:16 $0.99
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10. Tester's Redux
3:25 $0.99
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11. Tester's Reprise
0:50 $0.99
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12. Blip on the Radar
4:00 $0.99
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13. Disclaimer: Introducing Mr. Tenacity
4:17 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Imagine taking all four of The Donnas -- KISS-off kitsch and metal queen mannerism intact -- distilling them down to one 98-pound weakling of a fellow who could somehow still manage to furiously wrestle a guitar and pile drive it into the mat. Now envision that fellow being something of a vaudevillian impresario with a penchant for sonic oddity, a flea-circus ringleader with a raging migraine, a misfit literate with a mile-wide libido.

“What are you looking at?” asks Jon. “This is a record album, not a picture show. Besides, you had me at, ‘taking all four of The Donnas.’”

Welcome to Au Contraire.

PRELIMINARY VERDICT

What if Buddy Holly used a flux capacitor to visit us in present day? And what if he did so under the strict condition that, upon arrival, he had to rock out with powerful, gained-up guitars and make modern-day, chest-beating, pop-stained, hyper-melodic, finger-in-your-eye ROCK? Of course he would still have to wear his '50s garb and horn-rimmed glasses. And he would still have to be polite and sensitive – especially if you knew him personally. What would the music sound like? Would he be able to pull it off? Would it be a little scary … like he might get hurt making such kick-ass music? Au Contraire!

Exciting, dreamy, intimate … Au Contraire! Carnivalish, ambitious, intense … Au Contraire! I am all of those things too, Mr. James! And I claimed outright ownership of your record immediately upon hearing it! Maybe it was already mine! Maybe it’s actually ABOUT me or OF me! Or maybe it’s just made for me to use as I wish: “Hey everyone! Watch me listen to this record! Look how exciting I can be!”

Wait a minute. Maybe a little skepticism is in order. Is Mr. James really capable of such an accomplishment? Did someone help him do this? Did this chukka-boot-in-the-chest f**k-force of an album all come exclusively from the inside of his skull? Isn’t this mild-mannered, male-charm-school grad from Loves Park a bit over his skis? Did he, like Mr. Holly, also suffer injury making something so elegantly forceful and apishly big?

Excitement. What a difficult thing to achieve with music, huh?

I guess it’s plausible that I’m just somehow predisposed to love Mr. James’ music – and realizing this possibility is certainly not intended to rob him of any due credit. Au Contraire! It must mean that he is really on to something if I like it.

(Joel Criner, Minneapolis)

ABOUT AU CONTRAIRE

The Whodunit Album of 2010?

Well, perhaps. Certainly, Jon James’ sophomore effort, Au Contraire, casts a wide range of seedy characters – each of them impish at best, some of them downright despicable. Suspicions would be well-founded. James manages to embody silver-tongued huckster, dark soothsayer and sideshow savant with equal ease, engaging the listener in a relentless harangue that might prove exhausting save for one incontrovertible fact:

This is mighty catchy stuff.

A dizzying array of hooky riffs and dexterous turns-of-phrase lies within. Throughout, James pays unapologetic tribute to numerous eras and genres without seeming concern for the consequence of mixing & matching his poisons. The result? Combustible, of course.

Whereas his debut, Jon James & The Trashcan Fantasy Danceband, was a clearly nostalgic nod to ‘70s power pop and glam icons, Au Contraire sees James coming into his own as both songwriter and stylist. And while influences can still be heard at multiple turns – there are easily 10,000 reference points from across the musical map – his palette seems sufficiently savvy that things end up sounding largely, dare we say, original.

What we have here is a collection of songs with the nerve to offer what many contemporary rock-n-roll albums seem to lack: genuine point of view. Or shall we say points of view? Because, given the dozen or so volatile characters presented here, the charm of Au Contraire lies precisely in the many layers into which the narrative can be read. James offers up equal parts vapid pop-philosophy and biting social satire. The roles cast are rife with certain fatalism – disguised as slapstick, entendre and superficiality – and vice versa. The voices are at once narcissistic yet self-deprecating, obsessed yet ambivalent; the tone clearly critical of the vanities of modern life and, indeed, the trappings of rock-and-roll itself, which James seems to present with equal parts fascination and revulsion.

And that, dear friends, is precisely the thrust. Au Contraire leaves one guessing at every turn. James gambles all from the offset, opening with "Prologue: Blue Balls," a country/western-inspired, tongue-in-cheek lament about the unrequited tedium of a two-bit, small time musician. Replete with baritone guitars, baby toy instrumentation and a lonesome clip-clop saunter, the song is a playful and sardonic, but hardly indicative of what’s to come. Once it fades to black – bam! – game time begins and we're 180-degrees full tilt into James’ own spin on Guitar Hero™. Track two, "Happy Hour," is a smash-and-trash pop-punk gem, while three, "Cowboy Harmony," treads deftly between power-chord entendre and whiskey dick discoteque. Next, "Cherrycake" flirts with pre-pubescent hair glam, and "Big Bang Scene" is a blistering exposé of hypersex-charged nightlife.

James lends a quick breather with micro-symphony, "Intermission: Suck Face Abstract," after which we're transported into altogether new territory; an obvious tip-of-the-hat toward the pacing change one might encounter with a flip of vinyl LPs of old. In point-counterpoint fashion, if wine, women and song are focii of the album's first half, the latter gazes through a lens of compulsion, affliction and pathology.

The wounded adult to James' wild-eyed youngster, “Ballerina No. 1” is lush yet menacing; a cryptic, gender-bent lament ripped straight from the co-dependency handbook. “Snake Oil (Beautiful Delusion)” winds itself karmically around layers of percussive loop and Tibetan chant as James grasps vainly for some elusive ambrosia. “Crashcar Superstar,” easily the most ethereal track on the CD, sets today's culture of fame-at-any-cost against humanity's ever-fragile psyche, while "Tester's Redux" hurls a vaporous, puke-in-the-gutter f**k-all toward the furious pace of commercialism. Just as "Tester's Reprise" ushers things into blissful numbness, "Blip on The Radar" comes lunging back with its quirky, suicidal send-off (and guitar solo that might just do Papa Zappa proud).

And that would seem the ideal place to put a fork in James' mercurial yarn ... if it weren't for unforeseen encore, "Disclaimer: Introducing Mr. Tenanacity." Sober, vulnerable and humane, it undermines all the raucous, wiseguy antics James employs throughout the twelve preceding tracks, raising the possibilty that everything proferred has simply been an enormous hoax.

Mr. James' take on that theory?

"Never trust a Gemini. Or vodka."

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