When I was in school, myself and a couple of other sweet toothed friends used to have fun with the hundreds of Kinder Egg toys we’d amassed, disassembling, heating with a lighter and melting together the tiny plastic components into twisty new creations. Why can’t an arm grow out of a face, or a car? The debut album from Bristol’s Jelas reminds of those times: their songs are twitchy mutants that follow their triple noses along awkward linear paths, separate sections bolted together and writhing with freedom. Guitar/bass/drums/vocals may form the core of the noises they make, but the end result is like a warped take on what they used to say about early REM, that everyone solos all the time. It’s just in this case it sometimes sounds like the members are soloing from different songs at the same time (NB – they don’t sound like REM).
Opener ‘You Days Are Numbered’ rolls in on martial drumming and strident guitar lines, crunching through choppy, quickly changing variations, uneasy standing still or repeating anything. It’s unusual amongst ‘Body Parts’ songs in that it’s mostly instrumental; most songs are more like the following ‘Thundercloudbusting’: two or more voices rolling loosely over the music and each other, clashing, meshing, set at weird angles to everything else. Sometimes meandering half asleep, sometimes madly agitated, the vocals (cliche ahead) are an instrument in their own right, dead in keeping with the freeform ideas splurge, and fairly evenly split between Colin’s frazzled English gent and Natalie (also of superb clattering duo Bellies!)’s equally wonky rambling. ‘Spiders’ is the exception, a shy and strangely affecting meditation on saving the creatures from being squished that features drummer Aled’s semi-spoken wobbling, and which rocks like a surreal short story gradually blazing into light. The album’s lyrics as a whole are a dense stew of oblique imagery and fractured word play, again feeding into the feel of ‘The Body Parts’ being heavy with imagination and substance, even as the music moves between fiery crashes and awkward silences. Songs like ‘Antarctica Toc’ and ‘Like A Person’ contain both, post punk creeping that plays with space as well as skronk, and thrills unnervingly.
There’s a lot in here, especially relative to the album’s half hour running time. Something like ‘Hepatitis C Hepatitis Do’ (yes, they have the best song titles as well), with its hopscotching vocals and random guitar crashes, Nat’s terrific rising cry ripping the ending, feels substantial, joyous with meaning, even if you don’t know what that meaning is. ‘The Body Parts’ is strange, funny and brilliant. Stick your hand in, pull out the guts.
Available now or soon from these fine people:
AND! Colin, Nat and Aled were kind enough to cough up some memories and write this nice track by track guide to ‘The Body Parts’.
You Days Are Numbered
Colin: Probably our happiest song. This title came from a note I left underneath Aled’s drumstool when he went to the toilet once. I think Aled was inspired by this.
Aled: Inspired to kick your ass!
Nat: Duet. Pretty.
Aled: A lot of Saxophone on this one, soulfully played by haggard blues man Sam Goff. He used to play live with us quite frequently, but we haven’t really spoken since we replaced him with a keyboard.
We’re Practically a Boyband
Colin: I regret that our band has two tall men in it.
Nat: I wrote this for Colin and Aled to tell them I love them despite them being tall men. But then I never told them that. Or I might have done, but that was when I used to drink, so I can’t really remember.
Aled: That’s lovely, Nat. Although I don’t believe that Colin actually regrets being tall, because he favours a relentless comparison of himself with Didier ‘The Dog’ Drogba, scorer of many goals. I quite like being tall, but I have the decency to sit down when we play.
Colin: I’m actually much more like Gareth Bale, but right footed.
Hepatitis C Hepatitis Do
Colin: Aled said that Vitamin C Vitamin Do wasn’t offensive enough.
Nat: Good call. This song’s about having a heart attack. I’ve never had one though.
Aled: That’s not true! We all agreed that Vitamin C Vitamin Do sounded too pleasant for a song about heart attacks, I just happened to be the first to coin the more offensive variant.
Colin: We played this weekender called Our Band Could BBQ Your Life and we did a set of half our songs and half Mission Of Burma songs. It was fun, we got an email from Clint Conley! This is our rip-off.
Nat: Another breakdown in communication. My Mission of Burma rip-off happens at the end of Spiders.
Aled: I really like the lyrics to this one. The verses are about moving house, and the chorus features a reference to Colin’s beloved (now sadly deceased) hamster Bernedette. RIP Bernedette.
Colin: I think the album hinges on the sincerity of this title.
Aled: I didn’t realise until I grew up and started conversing with other adults quite how many people are scared of spiders, and would sooner kill one then handle it in order to shepherd it to safety outside. Personally I’ve never been so fearful of a spider that I felt I had to kill it. Apart from the Deku Tree boss in the Ocarina of Time, I’d slash that sick bastard in the eye any day of the week.
Colin: The Deku tree stills dies though. What does that teach you?
Nat: Features a Mission of Burma style bass bit at the end.
Colin: Educational song about a man called Nain Singh I read about in a James Cameron (the journalist, not the douche) book. Interesting!!!
Nat: Lovingly conducted additional vocals.
Aled: The title and backing vocals are reference to global warming, a shameless attempt to curry favour with Guardian readers.
Cloak & Badger
Colin: Notable for it’s use of the word ‘olfactory’, which was Nat’s idea. We accidentally taped over Sam’s sax on a part of this song so we replaced it with an organ. Aled mentioned this earlier. It’s recorded on tape you see, couldn’t click ‘undo’.
Nat: It sounds a bit like we’re saying ‘old fat tory’, but we’re not. It’s about autism.
Aled: You can’t imagine the argument we had about whether to call this song ‘Cloak and Badger’ or ‘Stoat and Dagger’.
Colin: The bit just before where Aled sings reminds me of the music in A New Hope for the shot that shows that the droids crashed in the desert.
Nat: Virtually unplayable now, but great fun while it lasted.
Aled: The end of this song is the only bit on the album where Colin and I sing together for a sustained amount of time. It’s totally bromantic.
Like a Person
Colin: Can’t really remember anything about this.
Nat: I used to play a can on a stick and a harmonica strapped to my face using old elastic from a pair of pants on the live version of this song.
Aled: Ah yes, I remember old sticky harmonica pants face Nat, a fitting end to any album.