Review: Jukebox the Ghost — Off to the Races

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 5:11 PM
Review: Jukebox the Ghost — Off to the Races by Britton Rozzelle

★☆☆☆☆

“Off to the Races” is the most bland, uninspired pop album to be released in years, much less this year so far - full of uninspired lyrics and even less creative instrumentals.

Out of all ten songs on this album, there’s only one that I know I’ll listen to again. It’s a rough ride.

It was about three songs into “Off to the Races” by Jukebox the Ghost that I knew not only was this album absolutely not for me, and more fitting for a seventh grader’s first foray into the world of alternative music. Trite, overworked instrumentation hums along to vocals that seem equally as uninspired, while Ben Thornewill croons flaccid lyrics that barely touch surface-level concepts of romance.

It’s disappointing, too, because the first song - “Jumpstarted” - is absolutely an excellent track, functioning as effective introduction and dramatic Queen tribute. Thornewill, unlike in several other examples, sounds comfortable with his material and his band. It serves as an example of what this album could have been, and it’s frankly baffling how fast “Off to the Races” goes from interesting and Queen-inspired to soulless beginner’s pop.

It’s clear that the band wanted to pay tribute to late 70s and early 80s rock/pop in many of the songs, “People Go Home” coming across like an extra track from an off-brand animated film (with chord progression that mirrors the intro song for “Foodfight,”) with a nothing chorus “people go to work, and people go home,” that was so aggressively bland I was surprised it came from the same band that made the unique and dynamic “Schizophrenia” only a few years ago.

“Time and I” feels out of place, “See You Soon,” fails to hit any highs and remains a middling song throughout despite what appear to be intentions to create a memorable ballad and “Boring” describes itself perfectly - sounding like a character’s introduction song for a modern musical made exclusively for the stage of a local theater because they couldn’t secure the rights to “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“Simple As 123” is Counting Crows a-la Jukebox the Ghost and it fails to create anything unique or memorable, even with a cavalcade of bells, country guitar and a chorus behind Thornewill’s vocals. It’s this - an attempt after attempt - to create something more that puts this album in such a bad place for me. The music and craftsmanship is one thing, but the vocals come across as something written in a few minutes on a Starbucks napkin on a whim. “Jumpstarted” had raised my expectations, and the rest of the album had destroyed that thought.

The final song, “Colorful,” stands next to “Jumpstarted” as the only thing resembling a good track on the album. To be as frank as possible, if this had just been an EP with those two tracks, I would have a much better time accepting these songs and Jukebox’s new top 40 pop sound.

I wanted to like this album, I truly did, but it has simply too many problems to overlook. Either that, or I expected more from Jukebox the Ghost as a band.

I won’t be making that mistake again. 

Stream "Off to the Races" below: 

Britton Rozzelle can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com.

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