Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: !K7
Formed out of New York’s downtown clamour, Luscious Jackson became a flagship act on their friends Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label after 1992’s In Search Of Manny EP blueprinted their contagious blend of pulsing street grooves, stinging choruses and punky attitude. Singer-bassist Jill Cunniff, singer-guitarist Gabby Glaser, keyboardist Vivian Trimble and drummer Kate Schellenbach (who’d played with the Beasties in their pre-1984 hardcore days) released three albums and 10 singles, scoring a top hit with 1997’s Naked Eye before splitting in 2000 to enjoy family life. In 2011, the group reunited (minus Vivian) to record their first music since 1999’s Electric Honey.
Like so many '90s alt-rock acts, Luscious Jackson faded away once the year Y2K came into view. Once the calendar turned over into the new millennium, Jill Cunniff, Gabby Glaser, and Kate Schellenbach all pursued different paths, but when 2011 rolled around, the band broached a reunion, raising funds on Pledgemusic in 2012 and releasing a new, partially crowd-funded album, Magic Hour, in 2013. The lower budget can't help but bring to mind the group's lo-fi beginnings and, in places, Magic Hour does recall the noir funk of 1992's In Search of Manny, the group's exceptional debut EP.
Now, they’re back with the awesome Magic Hour, brimming with the funky street beats that they made their signature sound and teasing, saucy vocals with instantly familiar melodies. The overall affect is to transport us back to that pre-9/11 decade when “alternative music” really was an apt descriptor. Thankfully, it’s OK to give in to a bit of nostalgia on occasion.
Luscious Jackson were to New York freestyle dance pop what their cohorts the Beastie Boys were to hip-hop: a sly subculture riff that delivered the goods with a wink. On this tight, 10-song reunion (minus singer-keyboardist Vivian Trimble), vocals still waver charmingly off-key, grooves still conjure a Nineties Lower East Side rent party. "You are my male J.Lo/Your jeans fit nice/ What's your price? .
The success rate for post-reunion albums is so small that it’s no wonder that so many reformed bands pause before stepping foot in a studio. A reunion tour might be great for nostalgia (see the Pixies’ first reunion tour of the early ‘00s), but once a band gets behind the studio glass, they are doing nothing less than risking their legacy. Take Jane’s Addiction.
It's been 14 years since the last Luscious Jackson album, and the world mostly hadn't been clamoring for a reunion. They had some terrific moments in the 90s—seek out 1993's deliciously murky In Search of Manny EP—but rarely shook off their reputation as a satellite of the Beastie Boys. (Grand Royal released all of their original records, and drummer Kate Schellenbach had been the Beasties' original drummer.) When the group lost keyboardist Vivian Trimble in 1998, then punched out after releasing the unspectacular Electric Honey, they seemed to have stuck around exactly long enough.
Given the ceaseless parade of ’90s reunions, Luscious Jackson‘s isn’t entirely shocking. One does wonder if the death of the trio’s good friend and demi-mentor, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, got the ladies thinking about mortality, and do it while you can, etc. But from the peppy opener here, You And Me then right into #1 Bum, this comeback album from one of the late-90s most beloved and influential indie rock/hip-hop hybridders doesn’t wallow in greying melancholy.