So here’s November’s offering and I confess to be coming into this review from a fairly biased starting position. I love what Jagwar Ma do and have done since seeing them in the John Peel tent on a Saturday lunchtime at 2013’s Glastonbury with my other half and the blog’s Guy Hornsby. To sum any band up is tricky: they’re original but they steal. They have their own sound but it’s interspersed with little nuggets taken from elsewhere. They’re the embodiment of an oxymoron but boy does it work. Consequently, they’re incredibly easy to connect with, especially if you’re someone who’s easily swayed by a band shamelessly throwing back to mid-90s baggy psych one minute (Man I Need) and bringing trance-era vibes the next (Four).. Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma are consummate musical magpies, all about the loops and repetition, like so much electronic music that it’s wonderful to disappear into… so with much of that 2013 set it felt almost illegal to be having that much fun on a Saturday afternoon.
That brings us to Every Now and Then which, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really want to review because I’d be buying this album anyway and sometimes it’s tricky to be objective with something you’ve been looking forward to for so long. But here we are and I’ve had this album for about a month or so now (having caught them live again at the Brudenell Social Club in the meantime). Again, where Jagwar Ma just do it so well is they’re amazing with taking tropes and little hooks of other sometimes timeless tunes and textures and weaving them into their own songs. In Say What You Feel, it’s pure Beach Boys harmony and melody thrown in but it’s not immediately obvious that’s what they’re doing as it’s swirling around gorgeous twists of reverse track and backing vocals. They’re taking what they kicked off with the debut Howlin’ and expanding it, making the soundscapes wider and richer (I know many albums are but it’s one hell of a headphone listen).
The album’s first single, OB1 is pretty much a stepping stone between the debut and this new collection of songs but it’s one where it almost feels like they’re plagiarising themselves it’s so close to The Throw in feel, for instance. But with them being who they are, it’s a head nod, an acknowledgement and then straight into an immediately accessible belt-out chorus. I can’t help thinking that if they were a guitar band as opposed to synth dance they’d be quite at home doing the arena tour circuit with refrains like that in their locker.
It took me a few listens to put my finger on it but there’s a moment in Loose Ends which is pure Beetlebum by Blur and another example of where they’re the magpies I’ve been pointing towards. The song where the album’s title comes from is beautifully crafted, layered and produced; it’s as good as anything the band have done and is so wonderfully hypnotic.
Every Now and Then is a fine example of a band having found their niche and are now exploring the sound that they’ve created. They’re evolving at a steady pace and they continue to be not only a fine live act (you really should try to catch them if they’re playing near you). This second album is the sound of a band stretching their legs and hitting their stride.