Written by: Dave Cantrell
Amazing what you find out sometimes, researching a review. As has been widely reported, Weekend’s new album Jinx is named after bassist-singer Shaun Durkan’s dad’s stage name, and true that is so far as it goes. Dig just a layer further and discover the more glorious story: Tom “Jinks” Durkan left Shepherds Bush in London in the late 70’s to escape the decay and economic depravity then plaguing the Capital and by whatever quirk of fate ended up in Palo Alto, California. Once there he searched out musicians and soon formed an outfit he called Half Church, a valiant and talented post-punk band that soon relocated back to London for a while where they recorded the In Turmoil EP before enjoying/struggling through a career that lasted another six years. Cue all comes-by-it-honestly and apples-falling-from-trees comments, then. While you’re at it, check the box marked ‘comes full circle’ as well, seeing as the bass player in Half Church was one Monte Vallier, the man at the producer’s desk for all three Weekend releases thus far (2009’s Sports LP and the Red EP from 2011 preceded Jinx).
Jinx is a stormer, I’ll just say that right off. Building, with a fuller sonic profile, on those two previous efforts, it has the triumphant feel of musicians and their producer hitting a paydirt synthesis they’ve been aiming for since the beginning. Though still sounding as if they can’t decide whether they’d rather go with the dark bass propulsiveness of post-punk or the sheeting soar of shoegaze and so just going for both (pity, that), the sheer depth of sound achieved on Jinx floors me, which is convenient as I can then find my blown-off socks.
We start with the angels. “Mirror” appears with celestial greetings, a treated keyboard choir invoking the high sky, coming through clouds, that sort of thing, before some sharp echo wah-wah action washes in then Shaun’s bass enters the scene along with Abe Bedroza’s drums and we’re back on earth hurtling along at ecstatic breakneck, the song overall a brilliant announcement of arrival, magnetic, tight, expansive and that’s all before Durkan even takes to the mic, his vocals now much further forward, more commanding (if still embossed in the sheeny fabric entire). As an exemplar of the brooding magic Weekend is proffering on Jinx there couldn’t be a better-gelled – nor more stunning – choice.
Though the now Brooklyn-based Weekend could and will be stylistically lumped in with that other Bay Area-bred exponent of all things dark gorgeous and ’81, The Soft Moon – you’ll be forgiven for thinking, for instance, that “It’s Alright”, at least with the compact blast of its opening bars, is a lost outtake that drifted over from the Zeroes sessions – one quick, even half-careful listen provides ample enough evidence to save the band from any undue comparisons to the Luis Vasquez vehicle they left out west. It’s a case of space, mostly, a more judicious use of dynamics that allows the tracks on Jinx to not only breathe but to take a giant bellow’s worth of kaleidoscopic air into its lungs before pouring out these billowing colored clouds of some of the most arresting noise you’re going to hear all year. Oh, I might also add one more standout element: a defter touch with melody.
“Oubliette,” with Kevin Johnson’s sharp arpeggiated guitar, the beauty-slaying bassline, the ringing chords bringing emphasis throughout but especially to Durkan’s “lost faith” refrain and that sound like Stuart Adamson giving his own long overdue guitar eulogy, is one clear example of Weekend’s ascension to the majors. Problem is, there are so many of them.
“Sirens,” the most accurately named track on the album, draws you into a bright, darkly effervescing murk, intoxicates and floats you and gives an idea of what MBV could sound like if they could just say ‘screw the volume’ for a few minutes. Mixing butterfly face paint metaphors with a 16-cylinder, motor-driven beat, “Adelaide” should be adopted as that city’s anthem. “Rosaries”‘ stop-you-in-your-tracks guitar hook, the stimulant drumming and powerful jazz bass flourishes of “Just Drive,” the loose, throbbing density of “July,” its guitars pealing with sufficient chiming élan that Johnson should expect a call from Will Sergeant asking how he done that, it’s all here, in profligate abundance. Even “Scream Queen,” which spends its first thirty seconds feeling a bit adrift in a pop lark haze, pulls itself together by the minute mark to become a fully-fledged member of the Wow club, claiming at one point a looming mystery quilt of bedded synth, a Hooky bass hook and Durkan’s echoed vocals.
Tough call that it is, though, centerpiece honors have to go to “Celebration, FL,” a track with the, um, celebratory punch of “New Gold Dream” overlaid by the melodic punch of Ride at their Going Blank Again best, all wrapped and twined inside production values that are exactly as luscious as Peter Walsh or Alan Moulder must have dreamed of. Quintessentially Weekend, it’s also the track that’ll mark forever the summer of 2013.
An exuberant, matured burst of potential fulfilled – very gratifying, that – Jinx, the album, is the work that’s going to bring Weekend into the ears of countless new fans and contend for the precious few spots on critics’ polls come December. One can only imagine how proud Jinks, the dad, must be.
– Dave Cantrell