Whatever happened to great band names like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Starland Vocal Band? Okay, so maybe not so much the last one, but there seems to be a stagnation about naming rock groups these days, many resorting to the old standby of just adding an “s” to a noun and going with it. Sometimes the band’s music can be good enough to overcome a drab or uninspired name, but most of the time it isn’t. I continue to be unimpressed with the continual parade of Sights, Sounds, Strokes, Thrills, Stills, Vines, Hives and Stands. And really, what do any of these mean? At least back in the day, the name “Stooges” actually fit the image! So what’s a band to do? For every imaginative band name like !!! or TV on the Radio, there’s a band pluralizing a noun that has no business being anything but singular. Well, how about name a band after a beloved senior citizen television sleuth? No, not Matlock, I’m talking about the most successful serial killer in the world, Jessica Fletcher. (You might be scratching your head about the serial killer reference, but think about it, every time Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury, shows up in a new town, someone gets killed and she “conveniently” solves the mystery for all. Doesn’t it just makes sense that she did it? It’s similar to wondering why Clark Kent is never around for the action when Superman shows up. But I digress.)
The funny thing about Norway’s Jessica Fletchers is that they are a band good enough to surpass a bad name, even though I think theirs is good and kind of clever. TJF, as they are sometimes called, are rooted in sixties pop inspired by other bands with great names like the Kinks, the Who and the Zombies. Occasionally, a little bit of seventies sneaks in, but for the most part this is flower power jangle pop to the nth degree. Just listen to the “la-la-las” of “Magic Bar” (sound like “Magic Bus” anyone?), although the lyrics are somewhat of a contradiction with the music. “Grab a cigarette and join the magic bar,” sings Thomas Innsto, whereas a sixties band might make less direct reference or one more illicit. “Get Connected,” although sounding like the title from the Stereo Mcs’ hit song, sounds more like Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Pay special note to “Summer Holiday & Me,” a single release prior to the album’s laydown. The song features backup singing from newcomer Therese Lunde, a dead soundalike to Liz Phair. A Norwegian Liz Phair? How much better can life get?
Intertwining harmonies, background “ooohs” and “la-las” and an overall über-happy pop feel make Less Sophistication a winner. The band formed as a rebellion against their country’s onslaught of death metal at the end of the nineties and you couldn’t get much further away from that sound than with the Jessica Fletchers. Sunny pop reigns supreme with this band from colder climes. Like neighbor Swedes the Cardigans, TJF are feel good music for lying on the beach, driving with the top down, or playing frisbee in the park. “On Our Way,” the closing song on the album, combines Colin Blunstone-like vocals with Herb Alpert / Love horns. For those itching to find a fun throwback to the great music of the sixties, just pick up Less Sophistication. You’ll find yourself tapping your feet and doing the frug in no time.