Release Date: Sep 7, 2010
Record label: Yep Roc
My friend calls them “the bearded three”, and yes, the three primary members of Jukebox the Ghost, pianist Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel, and drummer Jesse Kristin, do have beards, but not like Teenage Fanclub beards. Formed at George Washington University, they’ve been churning out infectious pop for seven years now, but only have one previous album, Let Live & Let Ghosts, which is obviously a take on the religious maxim “let go and let God”, and quite clever, in fact. So, after this bit of irreverence and non-essential information, let’s get to the music, my favorite part of the review (it doesn’t help me that the presskit totally sucks as far as providing information, anecdotes, history, quotes, and even personnel, aside from everyone harping on the fact that Everything Under the Sun was produced by Peter Katis who’s manned the boards for Interpol and the National, two bands that have absolutely nothing to do with JTG).
Everything Under the Sun seems like an apt title for Jukebox the Ghost's second album, since this trio seems capable of pulling any sort of pop music trick out of its collective hat on a moment's notice. If it's catchy, clever and expertly executed, Jukebox the Ghost can do it, and with the cheerful élan of the kid who can always be counted on to know the answer when the teacher asks a tough question. Suggesting some missing link between Ben Folds and OK Go, with myriad other influences (Rush, Queen and 10cc), bobbing up and down through these twelve tunes, Everything Under the Sun is top-heavy with brilliantly structured pop melodies, and Tommy Siegel (guitar and vocals), Ben Thornewill (keyboards and vocals) and Jesse Kristin (drums) are remarkably resourceful arrangers, making many of these songs sound almost orchestral in their dynamics and scope.
If your single biggest complaint about modern rock is the lack of nerdy types harking back to literate 70s piano pop-rock – in short, if the end of Ben Folds Five was one of the worst days of your life – then Jukebox the Ghost are the band for you. The Philadephia three-piece irritate and charm in equal measure from the beginning of their second album; Schizophrenia opens with pianist/singer Ben Thornewell essaying a Sparksesque descending vocal line – that's the irritation – before a luscious chorus brings the charm. It's a frontloaded album – Schizophrenia, Half Crazy and Empire have the strongest melodies – and it doesn't take long before one piece of clever, well-crafted pop is merging into the next.
Philly-based three-piece Jukebox the Ghost play simple, sunny power pop, not a little influenced by Yes and their fellow prog-rock titans. They’ve built up quite a reputation for their energetic, crowd-pleasing shows – not surprising, given that they’ve played more than 300 since their last album dropped (including a 2009 tour with Ben Folds). Their biggest hit to date, Hold It In, from 2008’s Let Live and Ghosts, boiled down to three minutes of ‘she loves me, she loves me not’ (and, oddly, references to Grease and Boys Don’t Cry), so you know going into Everything Under the Sun that you’re not in for a 40-minute emotional rollercoaster.