November 30, 2003

The Jessica Fletchers "What Happened to The?"

The Swedish rock explosion contiunes unabated, but what about Norway? You never hear of this country's rock scene, and yet there's plenty happening there. Sure, they may be a bit more passive than their Scandinavian comrades, but let's not write them off just yet. Oslo's The Jessica Fletchers offer up their own musical onslaught, with their wonderful debut album, What Happened to The?. Man, who knew that a pop overthrow could sound soooooo good? It's obvious that they like classic rock and pop music up in that northern European region, and Sixties pop and rock seems to have obtained a near-religious following among all these younger bands.

Listening to What Happened to The? is like taking a walk through a scrapbook of the British invasion. Do I get the feeling I've heard all of this before? I sure do. Bands I'm reminded of--but never enough to warrant a direct comparison to-- while listening to this album are, at varying points: Beatles, The Monkees, Beach Boys, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Turtles, Yardbirds, The Troggs, Lovin' Spoonful...I think you see where I'm going with this. When they really hit their stride and pull out the killer organ, such as on "Just Another Fashion Band" and "Christopher Jensen," they recall the terribly underrated Inspiral Carpets. (Heck, "Let's Go" even sounds like an odd rip off of Talking Heads' "And She Was," The Monkees' "Steppin' Stone" and The Kinks' "You Really Got Me"!!)

Of course, it's really easy to think of classic rock when your lead singer is a dead ringer for John Lennon. Really! It's scary, but when you listen to "Early Monday," "Next Year" and "I Got News," you'll think that it's 1965 all over again, and that these kids have stolen a roll of tape from Abbey Road and called those songs their own. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It's just really, really scary, listening to Thomas Innsto sing, because the comparison is uncanny--hell, it's immediate. Lennon and his little band, influential as they may be, never had The Jessica Fletchers' raw power and toughness. The Jessica Fletchers sound like the Beatles if the Beatles had been a Norwegian R&B-influenced garage band.

What Happened to The? is a really fun debut album, and what's more, I bet these kids are even better live. I can envision them tearing up the stage and making all the girls in the audience go crazy. Ironic, though, because I bet their audience is more like a room full of twenty-and-thirtysomething men. Still, I really have to say that they've made an impression on me, and it happened immediately. Not only is that rare these days, it's to be praised, admired, and respected. Watch this young band...

--Joseph Kyle

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