77:78 - Jellies
The eclectic indie/psychedelic rock group from the Isle of Wight that was known as The Bees has spawned an offspring. After four studio albums, the last released in 2010, The Bees fizzled out, and now beesmates Tim Parkin and Aaron Fletcher have joined forces to create an entirely new project: 77:78. In an interview with The405 the duo said:
“Some musicians and bands definitely have their sound and stick to it, which is fair enough, but that’s just not us. Whenever we’re in the studio we’re constantly inspired to go down different musical paths, which I suppose is why the record we’ve made sounds so diverse."
Which is odd, because everything on Jellies generally sounds the same. 11 songs of straight-forward, easy listening, and ultimately "safe" indie-rock tunes with retro influences. While the core of Jellies has some strong moments, usually accompanied by melodies driven by keys, the overall conviction of the record seems hollow.
First, the good. The band returned home to The Island and Humbug Studio to record Jellies, and the familiarity clearly worked. The production is pristine, the guitars crisp, the drums organic, and the vocal slap-back effects just right. The record sounds fresh.
"We ain’t smoking half as much as we used to but we’re still tripped out, which is quite interesting."
Three tracks in, "Love Said (Let's Go)", was the right choice as the album's first single. An immediate toe-tapper and a song with subtlety that works due to the simplicity across the board, and riffs able to hold up over 3 minutes because of some slick songwriting. Smack dab in the middle of Jellies lands "Papers", a truly psychedelic gem. Here we see 77:78 take a few risks. The vocal melody is unusual, but the comfort in simplicity is again showcased, this time with more confidence. Sure, the choruses still are there pulling it all together, but "Papers" works because it's not in a hurry to sound cool. It is cool.
Now, the bad. Overall, the riffs aren't interesting enough to withstand the length of the tracks, leading to the latter half of tunes becoming a little tired. The guys recently told Clash Magazine, "we ain’t smoking half as much as we used to but we’re still tripped out, which is quite interesting." That might explain some of the decisions made on the record. Some decisions that seem to be more for their own stoned satisfaction than for music lovers.
The real miss is a nearly five-minute mess titled "Situations". It's all over the place, sounding half country ballad and half eerie Queens of the Stone Age B-side. Tempos and dynamics are as erratic as the random guitar solo where the band becomes strangely fixated with a reverse effect.
Jellies has some strong moments. "Pour It Out" is a lovely tune, and "E.S.T.W.D" is a song that succeeds in walking the line between artistically expressive, and downright cringeworthy. They pull it off. Eight tracks in, "Chilli" is a lively song that sounds like a perfect track to be in a video game soundtrack. A background song that doesn't necessarily demand your attention, but could enhance an experience you're having. Ultimately, that's how Jellies sounds as a whole.