Jagwar Ma – Howlin’ (Mom + Pop Music)
Bringing baggy back, dance wizards of Oz Jagwar Ma recently released their debut album Howlin’, an album which a certain Noel Gallagher cited as being “more important than an Oasis reunion”. Read on to see if Louder Than War agrees.
Revivals come and go from year to year, each bringing their own twist to what was already a revolutionary format of the sort. We’ve had post-punk revivals, 60s revivals and for one short period of time… 80s synth revivals. Yeah, I know.
Now, in 2013, there comes a time when two whizkids from Australia (3 depending on how they feel) decide to channel the heady vibes from around late 1989 in a Northern quarter of Manchester and transpose it into dance music. Step forward Jagwar Ma and proclaim yourselves as the new pioneers of what can only be described as a “baggy revival”. Because it’s happening.
Howlin’, the band’s debut album, is an anthology of elongated, trippy, cleverly crafted gems intent on making you dance in a way that should only be acceptable from Bez. Opening with What Love, a synth parping, refrain filled number that could easily have been a B-side to Screamadelica, the song sets the sanguine theme that floats light-headedly from track to track on the album with lyrics including “tomorrow brings another day”.
Jagwar Ma are a band intent on looking to the future, something which is echoed in their music. No other ensemble have created such a furore by spinning Madchester on it’s already niche head and filtering it into current dance music with traces of house and trance in the mix. Gabriel Winterfield is the perfect frontman for the outfit: his distorted, nonchalant vocals are akin to that of a certain Ian Brown, renowned for less singing but more swagger. Perforating The Throw with a disharmonic, falsetto verging “I DON’T EVEN CARE” over lazy, chugging beats and Oompa Loompa style chants of la-la-la before picking up the pace into a fully-fledged indie dance number without sounding anything like Hot Chip, Bloc Party or LCD Soundsystem, Jagwar Ma have already secured their place as a new found entity. And God, it’s good.
Who knows what species this band could take on live? At times, they’re goofy Wizards of Oz, transmitting magical breakbeats, bashful lyrics and ultimately sending us on a baggy traipse through the ages. But then they take on the format of 60s pop, especially with drum skipping, fantasy filled track Come Save Me, sounding more Beach Boys than Happy Mondays. Man I Need is 3 minutes and 37 seconds of psychedelic washed pick-up lines, proving that Australia needs it’s waters checking for some acid inducing chemicals especially near the regions of Tame Impala’s and Pond’s headquarters.
A standout track on the album (if that can even be distinguished from a right ol’ good platter of songs) is Exercise. This is the most Stone Roses sounding number on Howlin’ and its Mani-esque bass groove would sound right at home on Second Coming. Where the band shy away from being Stone Roses acolytes however is the attitude and presence. Jagwar Ma are more of a shy, mysterious force in the music industry; a collection of interviews show them to be passionate about their work and Jono Ma in particular to be knowledgeable of the industry he is within. Whilst the Madchester scene was swamped with drug references and the height of ecstasy, Jagwar Ma’s only drug is love, but as far away from Roxy Music as you could possibly imagine.
In essence, Jagwar Ma aren’t really a band but more of a dance duo. We’re not talking in the style of more chart friendly contemporaries like Aluna George or Disclosure either, but a pair of artists who could have DJ’ed in the Hacienda back in the day. Which means nothing to most people but a lot to some. It’s these some that Jagwar’s music is most marketable and these people that will be most hyped up about the music that is on Howlin’. For me personally, I haven’t found a band I am more enamoured with in 2013 than Jagwar Ma.