Album goes deep with Jellyfish
BY JEFF ELBEL For Sun-Times Media December 16, 2013 11:36AM
Jellyfish in the 1990s. Omnivore photo
Updated: December 16, 2013 7:45PM
Last year’s Omnivore Recordings release “Stack-a-Tracks” featured backing tracks from Jellyfish’s 1990 album “Bellybutton” and 1993’s “Spilt Milk.” Despite omitting the band’s wry lyrics and meticulously layered vocals, the set offered an entertaining glimpse into the short-lived but influential quartet’s instinct for psychedelic pop arrangements.
The label’s new “Radio Jellyfish” is equally reveling, in a different way. Stripped to vocals, acoustic guitars, piano and light percussion, Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning reveal their command of fundamentals. “Joining a Fan Club” is no longer a bombastic reach toward Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Now, listeners can clearly hear clever songwriting twists and melodic craft that put Jellyfish into the company of bands like XTC and Cheap Trick. Also highlighted is the band’s intuitive vocal interplay, with three voices in close harmony supporting Sturmer’s gritty lead.
The sublime pop of “That is Why” is reinvented around Manning’s elegant piano. A cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” fits the band perfectly, with Sturmer digging hard for an impassioned vocal.
These 10 tracks document Jellyfish’s everyday efforts as a working band, captured during visits to morning radio shows. The band may have been bleary-eyed and yawning, but you wouldn’t know it from these sparkling recordings.