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The Samuel Jackson Five - The Samuel Jackson Five CD (album) cover


The Samuel Jackson Five


Post Rock/Math rock

3.79 | 76 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'The Samuel Jackson Five' - The Samuel Jackson Five (9/10)

First off, it's difficult to fault a band with as awesome a name as The Samuel Jackson Five. I imagine that, like me, many people are first drawn to these Norwegian post-rockers after a quick chuckle at their name, becoming genuinely intrigued in what they might sound like. Contrary to assumption, it's not a singing family of children yelling expletives and threatening to unleash their hell and badassery upon unsuspecting snakes and filmgoers alike. Instead, The Samuel Jackson Five follows a sound similar to that of my favourite post- rock act, the vibrant God Is An Astronaut. Though the band name first had me approaching these guys with an air of scepticism, I have little reservation in calling "The Samuel Jackson Five" the best post-rock album I have yet heard this year. If only they had kept things purely instrumental, the album may very well be perfect.

I had a phase with post-rock where I found myself infatuated with many bands of the style, crying 'love' for the style's tendency to create vast atmospheres. Perhaps it's part of the post- Godspeed 'we can't make things any more expansive' mindset, but in recent years, I have heard the drawn-out post-rock sound becoming more concise, in general. While I may have had my apprehensions about this, when done right, the more song-based, straightforward structure to post-rock remedies many issues suffered by the genre's heroes, namely Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros. Although the same hypnotic atmosphere may not be given time to brew and ferment, the music- once again, when done right - is consistently engaging. "The Samuel Jackson Five" is an album with not a minute to doze away or lose track. It never grinds on the ears, but the music is complex, and even diverse. Diversity and surprise is one of TSJF's greatest strengths here; every song brings something new to the album. Even if some of the experiments don't float as well, it's rare that I find myself so consistently engaged to an album, particularly with a band I've had no prior investment with.

Barring a wide variety of guitar tones, TSJF bring many instruments to the table, and though they're willing to experiment, the music is bright and accessible. A theremin and lapsteel are both used, and they certainly compliment the futuristic vibe. Though most of these songs rest around the four minute mark, I'm amazed by this band's ability to craft atmosphere. The fourth track "Radio Gagarin" is a wonderful example of this, diving between a central hook and spacey ambiance effortlessly. Helped greatly by an ethereal sense of production, "Radio Gagarin" is among the greatest songs 2012 is likely to produce.

Although I suppose I can't fault them for trying something out, the vocals don't work as well as they may have been intended to. Post-rock is known for its generally instrumental approach to things, and though I think there is room for vocals to work in a style like this (Sigur Ros are here to back me up) the three songs featuring vocals have me thinking that The Samuel Jackson Five may have been better off leaving the album entirely instrumental. This is not because the songwriting of these tracks is lesser than the others, or even that vocalists Meidel and Knutsen are poor singers. In fact, the vocals are executed nicely. I could see the Mew-like vocal work in "Ten Crept In" being echoed in future works to a greater success, but it's really the structure of the album that has the issue with it. The problem lies in the feeling that the sudden, unannounced appearance of vocals tends to break the momentum while listening. Of course, The Samuel Jackson Five are never ones to back down from surprising their listener, for better and worse. Fortunately, the vast majority of risks they have taken on this self-titled record pay off very well. Make no mistake about it, and don't let their silly name fool you; this album rules.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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