Written by: Dave Cantrell
So I’m sitting here trying to figure what the hell happened. Again. I’ve seen the name The Jigsaw Seen touted about in this magazine and that for, what, twenty-five plus years now and yet have managed to avoid almost all meaningful contact the entire time. In my defense – oh what am I saying, I really don’t have one but this is as close as I can come – the fact the by-now-storied LA band emerged out of that city’s neo-flowery hot pot of a scene long known as the Paisley Underground has much to do with it, as for reasons that still aren’t clear (some muddle of the curves life was throwing at me at the time along with a stubbornly lingering post-punk jones that included a mild distrust of psychedelia no matter how neo-) I kept that bursting vivid community of bands (The Three O’Clock, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate et al) at arm’s length and man oh man don’t make me think of all the amazing shows I passed up. All of which explains why a) the only track I recognize on this brimming odds’n’sods collection out January 27th on Burger Records, is “My Name Is Tom” that hurtles forward with a flanged abandon like an amphetamine-pushed 13th Floor Elevators and is derived from the Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era box set Rhino put on in 2005 and that represents one of my many latent attempts to catch myself back up on all I missed, and b) judging by what one hears here, just in terms of this band alone, I’ve missed a ton. This is lysergic pop of historic proportions, a statement the music stands up to even if the band has been somewhat unseen – and, more criminally – unheard by some (ahem).
Kicking the door off its hinges from the very start, “The Best is Yet to Come” not only vigorously tears the crooner-favored standard’s jacket and tie to shreds, all growling electric rhythm and bright spanking vocal lashed to the ground by what can only be called a fierce precision, it also makes dubious, in the context of this album, the very meaning of its title. But even if the track were meant to serve as a thrown down gauntlet, the rest of For the Discriminating Completist has no difficulty meeting the challenge.
“We Women (sitar version)” adds requisite tablas to the mix and yet pop-wise those elements sound less an excursion into some kind of dandyistic exotica and far more as if the sounds came begging to be woven in, so intrinsically do they suggest a sinuous trip up a sunny Sunset Blvd. The Gibbs Brothers’ “Melody Fair,” while retaining its imperishable halcyonic gist receives a startling nuclear guitar boost that makes you think it could’ve been what that Memorex guy was listening to, “Jim is the Devil” chimes with such bell-ringing grandeur it could preside over midnight services at the Popsike Cathedral of your dreams, the aching, errantly romantic “Whore Kiss” is visited by one of the most heartbreaking (and subtly searing) guitar solos this side of Roy Buchanan, while their ghostly, quavering take on Arthur Lee’s “Luci Baines” had me thinking that maybe Martin Bramah had been at the board mixing up some of his patented bespoke medicine a la Enter Castle Perilous.
Trippy here, cheeky there – aside from that rumbustious opener, the band’s run through Mancini’s “Elephant Walk” blows past irreverence into straight-up ownership. Imagine, if you will, the Stranglers scoring the Pink Panther – sparklingly deft everywhere, For the Discriminating Completist is the perfect complement for all those smarter than yours truly that could use this album to fill in some missing pieces in their Jigsaw Seen collection, while also being an oddly apt primer to address still another deficit in what is repeatedly proven to my own blank-filled past.