JEROMES DREAM- ‘LP’
Time is a funny thing. Over 20 years ago Jeromes Dream were another fiery screamo outfit with wild ideas and a weird sense of humor. Depending on who you asked, their biggest achievement was either recording a split with Orchid or pissing everybody off with a change in sound on their second and final record. In the years following their messy dissolution though, the Connecticut trio became something more, something significant.
In that brief period between Napster and Spotify, when serious scenesters swapped long lost songs on message boards and trawled blogspots for rare mp3s of genre forebears, Jeromes Dream (never with an apostrophe!) took on almost mythological status. These days, the natural conclusion to that timeline is rumors of a reunion, but last year when the band raised $20,000 via Kickstarter to produce a new album, their comeback was all but guaranteed. That didn’t mean success was certain, of course. Just ask Refused or At the Drive-In- sometimes dragging a myth into the daylight is the fastest way to see it dull.
Fortunately, most of ‘LP’ shines like the Jeromes Dream of old. If you didn’t catch the band the first time around, off-kilter opener ‘Keep Those Bristles Clean and Closed’ is a neat introduction- two minutes of highly-strung, static-laced hardcore that sounds a little like a lot of bands and a lot like no one else at all. ‘Drone Before Parlor Violence’ is even better, introducing fuzzy melody and staccato riffing into the mix, and, for a band previously so intent on harnessing negative energy, the end of ‘In Taking Twelve’ positively soars.
If you are familiar with the band, however, then these songs will do one of two things- cause you to celebrate that they don’t seem to have mellowed much over the years, or commiserate that vocalist Jeff Smith isn’t screaming. There’s no getting around it, Smith’s ultra-distorted, mostly-monotone vocals- the technique he employed on later Jeromes Dream recordings after shredding his voice for the early stuff- will remain divisive. Some won’t be able to get past the “megaphone vox” no matter how good the music is. Others will find a welcome familiarity with the likes of Rodan, latter-day Daughters, or even The Jesus Lizard, and they’ll find an ugly, uncompromising strangeness too.
The band’s foot isn’t always to the floor. The album hinges around ‘Reverse in a Valley Combine’, four minutes (a nearly record-breaking track length for Jeromes Dream) of ever-mutating dissonance that speeds up to searing punk rock and slows down to ominous hums. ‘Pliers Consult with DRR’ finishes with slow-swirling electronics, while ‘Cognizing Mechanics…’ is one of the most unnerving tracks here without once raising its voice. And these moments don’t feel tacked on, rather an essential facet of the audible tension of ‘LP’.
In fact, the band almost sound more interested in the ambient soundscapes here than the faster material. Even ‘In Memoriam: Be’, the track most likely to satisfy serious screamo addicts, is most engaging when its chunky riff shifts into a slower gear. And given that title I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the band saying a kind of goodbye to their distant past altogether.
Time is a funny thing. In one move here, Jeromes Dream have navigate their way from icons of the past to unexpected players of the present. It isn’t clear what their future holds- here’s hoping it doesn’t take another $20,000 to get them to speak to each other again- but right now it’s great to have them back.