Across their earliest releases as Jockstrap, the distance between Georgia Ellery’s baroque songwriting and Taylor Skye’s electronic excursions – in thrall to his own formative dubstep experiences, as well as the sonic pyrotechnics of Aphex Twin, even recent hyperpop – could seem a stretch too far to gain solid footing. It’s all very well to want to sound like Broadcast and Skrillex in the same seconds, but how to do it? This now, however, seems like a necessary exercise in throwing so much shit at a wall – by the time of their astonishing debut, Jockstrap’s creative partners are exhilaratingly in simpatico.
In its search for commonalities between the club and the conservatoire, I Love You Jennifer B’s default mode – if you can use that term about such a restless ten songs – is a kind of carnality in excelsis. Ellery’s songs circle round and around to the jelly-legged rushes of sexual awakening (“For the first time / I like when he’s inside me”). It’s worth interrogating why, in 2022, this kind of frankness still feels startling on record. Where it succeeds – and keeps on succeeding – is how form follows function. How better to evoke the experience of sexuality and desire than the lush grandeur of an orchestra giving way a second too soon to pummelling big-drop electronica? “See you on the other side,” Ellery sings, checking out as the loungecore house of ‘Greatest Hits’ collapses into swirling, romantic strings. There are multiple moments like this. The imperial ‘Concrete Over Water’ remains the high point of Jockstrap’s work to date. In some ways, Jockstrap’s tastes make them analogous to Mica Levi and Dean Blunt, but their grandness refuses to oblique and rejects abstraction, with pop instincts that would always rather soar than mumble. Take ‘Glasgow’, close to the album’s finale, where the late reveal of strummed country rock forms an unexpected emotional core to the record.
In a generous and thoughtful interview, Joe Goddard of Hot Chip reflected recently that his band’s early habit of “taking references from different types of music than was normal for a kind of indie band” was pioneering then, but renders them “a bit Status Quo” now. This is testament to the fact that, in the last half decade, all the interesting ideas in British indie music are coming from artists colliding together genres with an attention-deficit prog maximalism (of which Ellery has also been another participant, with Black Country, New Road). No band typifies that more than Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B is unquestionably one of the best debut albums of the last five years.
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