On the back of his xmas smash hit 'Mad World', Gary Jules' debut album gets a timely...
Niky Daley 2004-02-20
If you're looking for the wistful melancholia that Gary Jules displayed in his Christmas smash "Mad World" you may well be disappointed with this re-release of his 1998 debut album.
Although Michael Andrews also worked on the LP, the sound here is much more alt country. "Barstool" for example takes the country twang as far as it will go (which may be too far for some). However, the album does have rockier moments courtesy of Counting Crows engineer J Bradley Cook.
The title track "Greetings From The Side" features beautiful harmonies that remind me of Cat Stevens. Yet on other songs, with the exception of "Bluefish", Jules voice is more reminiscent of Michael Stipe. It lurks in the lower ranges giving it a world-weary feel. This is particularly apparent on "Owen Down" which starts darkly with the lyrics "Baby I would smash your pretty face". With the risk of sounding sadistic, this deeper, more passionate side finds Jules at his best. Some of the lighter tracks stray into the Joshua Kadison's "Jessie" camp which is a shame because he's capable of much more than AOR mediocrity.
Melody is heavy throughout these anecdotal tales of life on the West Coast. The album starts down-tempo, picks up pace in the middle and culminates in the foot-stomping finale "Push".
Instrumentation is limited, mainly reliant on guitar and drum, but does gets more diverse with a flute and even an accordion making an interesting appearance in "Ghosts".
None of the tracks here are likely to bring as much chart success as his last single, but "Heroes and Heroin" might be his best chance. This story of parting manages to be poignant and pretty yet not cloying and the rhythm will move you as much as the words.
It shouldn't be forgotten that Greetings From The Side was a debut album and contains a variety of songs and displays Jules experimenting with different styles. Six years on and with a huge hit under his belt it will be interesting to see which path he'll take but with the promise shown on this LP all the signs point to it being an enjoyable one.