Jackie-O Motherfucked-up is more like it the good kind of fucked-up. That free, liberated fucked-up-ness. People like feeling fucked-up because the weirdness makes them feel cool. Remember, weird is good, weird is cool, weird is breaking away from the boring, conformist norms. And since people tend to define themselves by the music they listen to, those who check out Jackie-O's one-of-a-kind tunes should feel downright loopy, in that good, fucked-up kind of way. (Gee, using the f-word can be so much fun in a weird, cool kind of way).
Jackie-O's new, mostly instrumental album, Liberation, sounds like 12 jazz-inspired Portland, Ore., folks getting together in the same room, finding a common, simple rhythm line and with a variety of string, horn and electronic instruments in hand building off it, dragging it out for, oh, sometimes 17 or more minutes. At the core of each song is the raw rhythm line playing repetitively like a broken record, and then, to the left, comes some instrumental accessory to break up the droning redundancy. And then just when you feel like you've been sucked into a black hole, subjected to the same spin again and again electronic, spacey effects, hollow bass drums or the lovely high sounds of the violin enter the mix to pull you through.
Without such improv-style contributions, their music would be, well, excruciatingly boring. But they push you to the edge, it seems. Just when you think you can't handle any more of the "broken record," you're delightfully surprised and relieved by the introduction of a new instrument, rhythm and melody. Still, the core's simplistic drone plays on you'll just forget it's there. Take the 13-plus minute-long "Ray-O-Graph" for instance; its pulsating drumbeat and reverberating guitar line introduce a particular rhythm line (one that stays central throughout) that's dressed up with a screaming sax there, a whining harmonica here and a little cello over there.
Like taking a drive with no interest in where you're headed, the group's approach to songwriting feels very free and creative the kind of music-making only risk-takers feel comfortable with. The only exception to my theory regarding Jackie-O's songwriting approach is "Something on Your Mind," which is far more traditional, with catchy pop-like melodies and singing throughout.
Overall, Liberation strays from adhering to any real order or logic. Instead, the album experiments with the dissonant and often oddball consequences of multiple improvisations, as if the conductor left the platform and all the bandmembers were left to play without direction. And the result is truly fucked-up (that word again!) in a good way.