JJ72 : I To Sky

An essential visit, but don't expect glitter storms

Well, you wouldn’t bung a mirrorball in the Sistine Chapel, would you? In January 2001 JJ72 munched a poisoned apple and went to sleep in a safe Stereophonics world where he who wailed most histrionically was king and Coldplay were cold hard proof that maudlin sells. They hibernate right through the Strokeocalypse and when they wake up everyone’s either tarting about in front of wind machines in zebra leotards or chinning each other while singing like a toilet-mouthed Chas And Dave. And Coldplay are cold hard proof that magnificence sells.

But have Ver Jays altered their ouvre one iota to fit in with these loud and lurid new times? Baudelaire’s hairy arsecrack have they. Like a sombre stone monument crowded by kebab shops, JJ72‘s second album is steadfast in its classicism, swaying to no fad or fashion. They’re Joy Division ’til they die, Joy Division ’til they die…

If anything, ‘I To Sky’ sees JJ72 and raises it several tons of epic. Chasing Matt Bellamy into the melodramatic stratosphere, Mark Greaney’s vocals have become even more hysterically falsetto – less the proto-Nicholls death-gargle of their debut, more (on, say, ‘Formulae’) Delores O’Riordan painfully turning into a goblin. The austere Eastern Bloc atmospherics of ‘October Swimmer’ and ‘Snow’ remain, but with added Bolshevik ballast on the darkly delicate ‘Brother Sleep’ and the awesome U2 – pop of ‘Always And Forever’.

Continuing the nuff nastee alienation tip, ‘Sinking’ is so awash with the sodden booms from [a][/a]-style Christian symbols numbering the tracks, the way ‘Serpent’s Sky’ sees Greaney having Satan stoned out of him by a mob of angry Judeans or the Wagnerian pomp of ‘7th Wave’, which sounds like being trapped inside a whale (followed, incidentally, by the fantastic ‘Half Three’, which sounds like being trapped inside a whale with The Wedding Present). It’s pop, sure, but pop with a plague of locusts and the odd Horseman waiting in the wings.

While there are stylistic breakthroughs – ‘I Saw A Prayer’ features the most superbly wobbly scuzz-guitars and velveteen vocals since My Bloody Valentine last ate the earth, ‘City’ drifts dangerously close to (gasp!) a dance beat – ‘I To Sky’ is an impressive consolidation rather than a startling revelation. Where JJ72 was the half-finished building site of Greaney’s palatial vision, here it’s painted, carpeted and taking guided tours. An essential visit, but don’t expect glitter storms.

Mark Beaumont