Ditch the Fest Fest: Bobby Jealousy

Bobby Jealousy  Pic by Jon Chamberlain

Bobby Jealousy Pic by Jon Chamberlain

Every year, as a counter to ACL, Lucy the Poodle Productions puts on Ditch the Fest Fest to highlight some of the amazing local bands and other under-the-radar bands from around the country. It’s a great way to get your fill of music without buying into the super mainstream lineup at ACL, and this year it will be all over the Spiderhouse compound on Friday and Saturday nights. There are some OVRLD favorites playing Ditch the Fest Fest this year, including The Calm Blue Sea, Knifight, Megafauna, Les RAV, Black Books, The Lonesome Heroes, The Couch, Ghost Wolves, and Hello Wheels. And yet, there are even more bands playing that we have never encountered before. And even though there are other cool-sounding bands on the bill, like Henry & the Invisibles, The Wolf, and Superlitebike, the biggest travesty of all is that we have yet to cover Bobby Jealousy.

Back in February, this bi-gendered, multi-lead-singered quintet released A Little Death, which actually may be one of my favorite albums of the year. I’ve had this thing on repeat for the last 48 hours and see no signs of it slowing down. It’s a glorious mess of romantically morbid pop music. It sounds like the New Pornographers and Roxy Music covering Smiths songs. They take the Pornographers’ ear for world-shaking pop melodies, throw in a healthy dose of Roxy Music’s theatrical proclivities, and then write all of their songs about the connection between love and death. In fact, the album’s title, A Little Death, when translated into French, is also French for “orgasm.” It’s that little piece of life that gets expelled during sexual activity – the release that gives so much joy also takes a little bit out of you. Sonically, Bobby Jealousy sounds like one big orgasm; it’s just pure joy and excitement. Lyrically, it takes a little bit out of you.

Take, for instance, “Earthquake.” It taps into the same mellow 90s vibe that Austin’s Boy + Kite hit, but the lyrics are anything but mellow. “I met you in an earthquake / I thought you was a doorframe / Threw my arms around your splintered legs / oooh love begs,” sings Sabrina Ellis Gibbs (whom you may also know from punk group A Giant Dog). The chorus repeats, “If I died inside of you, I want to die again.” Love gives life and love takes it away. It’s shaky and messy and completely irresistible. One of the album’s singles, “Rainbow,” is one of the most life-affirming tracks I’ve heard in a long time, with the harmonized chorus of “Rainbow-oh-oh-oh” blazing a path straight through the heavens. And yet there is that hint of mortality: “I know I’m alone / I know I’m alive / But everybody’s dying inside.” And buried deep in the middle of the album, “Pass You By” poses the question, “Don’t you ever think about how you’re gonna live without the people you love most one tragic day?” The answer is, of course I do, I just don’t ever talk about it, thanks for bringing it up, jerks.

Bobby Jealousy - 'Flamethrower'

Nearly every song at least mentions death, dying or murder in some way. But this is not Elliott Smith music. Or even the Cure. Opening track, “Flamethrower,” was the first thing I heard from Bobby Jealousy, and I was in love within the first ten seconds, after the band raucously crashes in before the fourth measure of the intro is even finished. It’s like they can’t wait to get started with the awesomeness they know is about to ensue. Not everything is straightahead major chords. In “Cock of the Walk,” Mark Stoney winds lyrics like, “…and the carrot with cash as the catalyst sat in the saddle and cracking the cattle whip…” in a mesmerizing absurdist minor-key rant before exploding into a huge chorus. “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This” features Seth Gibbs on lead vocals, and is like the Dandy Warhols jacking the chorus from Duck Sauce’s “Barbara Streisand.” And “Take You On” recounts falling in love despite really, really not wanting to. It’s the least romantic love song you’ll hear this year, but it contains the awesome line, “Fucked with you / Fucked you then I fought with you” over a retro-60s doo-wop rhythm. Long story short: there is not a mis-step on this album.

There’s a reason that KUT called this one of the bands to watch in Austin for 2012. They go on at Ditch the Fest Fest on Friday night at 12:30am on the Spiderhouse Ballroom Mainstage. And if you miss them there, they’re playing in Austin four more times before the end of the month. I highly recommend catching this show.

– Carter