Album Review :
Joy Electric - My Grandfather, the Cubist
Album: My Grandfather, the Cubist
Artist: Joy Electric
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: May 27, 2008
Review by: Eric Pettersson
1. Victorian Intuition/ Father Winter Replies
2. Rudimentary Animation
3. Draw for Me, M.C. Escher
4. Four Gone Pierre (Or What Electricity Made)
5. The First Time I Loved Her It Was Here
6. I Recall the Telephone Booth
7. On Being Principally Utopian
8. Whether by Horse, or Horseless
9. Only Copernicus
10. Prelude to Cubism
11. My Grandfather, the Cubist
12. Cubism Interlude
I must admit, I am a sadly late passenger of the Joy Electric railroad. Today I browsing a local used CD vendor and came across a copy of Old Wives Tales from 1996 and thought, man, this guy’s been around forever. I wonder what he sounded like back then, towards the beginning. I mean, I heard “Monosynth” (repeatedly) on that one BEC sampler and I saw some videos on those old T&N tapes, but I never actually had a whole record until the recent Hello, Mannequin. So my review of this record is more from the stance of a music fan in 2008 than of a longtime friend of JE.
And the reason this is sad is because I have trouble getting into a lot of this disc. From what I can tell, I probably would have liked his stuff from the 90s better. Which is a little strange for me to say, because from what I can tell, almost all of his material sounds the same. I mean, I like this album. I really do. My Grandfather, the Cubist is full of smart melodies and even features some further electronic experimentation on tracks like “Draw for Me, M.C. Escher.” The problem is that it sits in my collection as an occasional guilty pleasure. As I listen right now, “Four Gone Pierre” is sounding great through my speakers, but on previous spins, I’ve been tired of this style by the end of the album and wanting to change it to something else. It’s good; it’s just not something I can listen to for very long. Again, the dark minimalist sound of “The First Time I Loved Her It Was Here” is a beautiful thing in my ears, one of my favorite JE songs of all time, but overall the music is just a little too close to those Sonic the Hedgehog games that dominated my childhood. And Ronnie Martin’s vocal approach isn’t what it used to be either. He seems to have forgotten his higher, crisper singing voice and gone for a deeper almost whiny sound (a la Brand New, Bright Eyes, etc) that doesn’t really fit. For an example of what I’m talking about, listen to the chorus of “Whether by Horse, or Horseless” or the verses of “I Recall the Telephone Booth.”
My advice for Ronnie is to go back to the happier, poppier sound that his music had before the Legacy series. I can definitely appreciate the artsy, darker side of Joy Electric that has been prominent of late, but his songwriting is really at its most enjoyable when it is more accessible, such as the old “Lift Up Your Hearts” or even “Children of the Lord.” But as it stands, My Grandfather, the Cubist was another worthwhile effort. A few rough points here and there, but on the whole, it really is a good musical offering. “Only Copernicus” is especially good, with the upbeat chorus and the weird bleeping experimentation. Overall though, I was just hoping for a more substantial directive development.
Oh, and by the way Ron, that Christmas album was sweet. I’m looking forward to the next one that I hear is currently in the works. Also, while I have you on the line, did I ever tell you that “Cubism Interlude” presents an interesting aspect of your work because it is straight instrumental, therefore not constrained by the verse-chorus approach? Perhaps you should make an instrumental record as well. That, my friend, I would also look forward to!