Jookabox, we hardly knew ye. Upon the release of their fourth album, The Eyes of the Fly, the Indianapolis band, which began life as Grampall Jookabox, announced their dissolution, with founder and frontman Moose Adamson continuing a musical career under the name DMA. It’s unfortunate to see a band on such a creative and reasonably prolific streak (four albums in five years ain’t half bad!) call it a day, but they undoubtedly went out on a high note. Jookabox’s final effort, The Eyes of the Fly, is a 33-minute dive into raw, creative energy filtered through bizarrely arranged yet thoroughly exciting pop songs. At various points throughout the album, the band reveals shades of TV on the Radio’s dense fuzz, Man Man’s manic howls, the spastic wriggle of Brainiac, the soulful loop experimentations of tUnE-yArDs and the hypnotic psychedelia of Animal Collective.
I can throw out eight to 10 more names of various acts that Jookabox vaguely recalls at times on The Eyes of the Fly, but if anything, these are all likely coincidental reference points, and ones that come together in most unexpected ways. Adamson and his bandmates merely touch upon similar aesthetic choices as other artists, but as a songwriting unit, they’re something different altogether. The incredible, heavily layered pulse of “Nice-Boy” propels with an almost shoegazer-like density, but the song’s ramshackle percussion and oddball vocal loops remove that genre’s streamlined dreaminess and replace it with youthful mischief. And “Webbin'” may be an exercise in sampling and cowbell percussion, there’s nothing particularly disco about it, instead sounding like a happy medium between Animal Collective’s most and least accessible material.
No matter how weird or atypical Jookabox’s song constructions are, The Eyes of the Fly is nonetheless a splendid showcase for the band’s pop songwriting chops. “Worms” is hypnotic and soulful, Adamson’s expressive vocals (which include lyrics about worms, no less) guiding a gently pulsing synth loop and clackety-clacking percussion. The echoing, pitch-shifted vocals of opener “Man-Tra” are a slightly disorienting introduction to what ultimately becomes a propulsive, infectious standout of falsetto chants and bluesy garage rock riffs. And “Drops” grooves hard via spacey synths and snapping trip-hop beats.
That Jookabox is calling it a day after The Eyes of the Fly is a shame, given the vibrant inspiration on the album. But perhaps it’s for the best that they end on a high note rather than suffer the indignity of the almost inevitable curse of mid-career mediocrity. Still, with Moose Adamson continuing as a solo performer, much in the same way he began this band, it probably won’t be long before there’s another collection of chopped, sliced, sideways and wobbly pop to celebrate.
Stream: Jookabox – “Nice-Boy”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.