REVIEW: PIQUED JACKS – JUST A MACHINE (2013)
Piqued Jacks are a relatively new group of native Italians who have recently set up shop in Austin. After releasing two EP’s in their homeland the boys have made it stateside; delivering another EP of brand new material entitled Just a Machine.
Just a Machine opens up with the heavy riffing odyssey “Welcome to the Future” a dexterous blend of musical styles whose whirlwind power chords transition from hardcore rock to glittering funk. The track culminates in a head banging climax, making way for the second cut “Black Tie” which brings the funk fast and furious for over three minutes without letting up.
The following track “Youphoric ?!” is a deepened sketch of the funk rock Piqued Jacks feels most comfortable exploring. With torching solos and falsetto backing vocals the band exercises their strengths and creates an excellent companion piece to the first two songs. With the second half of the EP the Jacks take a few more liberties and step outside their comfort zone and that’s when things begin to get really interesting.
The incredible rock ballad “My Kite” is perhaps the strongest song on the album. The intimate opening verse and soft piano chords sets the tone for the expansive chorus to work it’s hypnotic magic. After the rim shot enters upon the second verse, the hooks are in and the song travels into the stratosphere on the wings of the charismatic lead singer.
“Amusement Park” barrels out of the speakers with a virtuoso guitar lick reminiscent of John Frusciante’s early work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The lyrics paint a passionate picture of youth using the setting of an amusement park as an allegory for the trails of adolescent love. The track comes equipped with a powerful hook and wonderful half time breakdown that I imagine works wonders in their live show.
“Tourist of the Apocalypse” is another tour de force closing the set on a high note. The staccato verse merges with the highly melodic chorus creating a gorgeous moment as the lyrics “I’m done traveling by now, take my blood, take this camera” ring out above the euphonious musical canvas. Before things get to pretty the tempo changes and the band launches into a finale worthy of the tracks title.
Piqued Jacks have definitely nailed down their sound on this EP while leaving room to grow in more experimental directions. The latter half of the album reflects a highly evolved attunement and melodic sensibility which I hope to hear more of on their follow up.