Bobby Jealousy is a self-described “throwback,” “dirt pop,” “melodic,” “soul-inspired,” and (charmingly) “death-obsessed” band from Austin, TX. The members are somewhat seasoned players—one is particularly accomplished as a solo artist—and each is undeniably gifted. The ethos seems to be: work hard, master the melodies in studio, then get drunk and play the imperfect f*ck out of the show. Another devastating trick they pull onstage is the seamless alternation of lead vocals—among four singers. Sabrina, the de facto lead player, gets most of center stage, handily delivering melodic and demanding tunes like “Rainbow” and “This Knife”—with a frank debt and homage to (pause) Janis Joplin.
Then Seth will take the lead and demonstrate an inviting presence and voice brought home by extraordinarily tight songwriting in his American folk-pop style. Mutatis mutandis for William, the lead singer of sister-band The Shivery Shakes, whose dark and soulful tunes have haunted us for weeks now. “Darker Days” plays like a bourbon-soaked Tom Waits track but with pop orchestration and dulcet tenor instead of—whatever the f*ck Tom has.
Stoney, last in our list but certainly not least of the leads, presents a curious case, as he is an accomplished solo musician in his own right. He tells us he charted a #4 hit in France a few years back (and then he briefly mentioned Rick Rubin). The long and short of it is he’s British and brilliant. His work–at least what I’ve heard–is obviously but wonderfully English in its folk roots, and his voice wanders between rough baritone and boisterous tenor.
The common thread of Bobby Jealousy is indeed death, with Stoney being the least deadly of the four primary songwriters. Their first album Un Petit Mort—at least that’s what it could have been called, but was instead A Little Death—runs deadly pop jams into deadly ballads into ominously innocent songs of unrequitement. The title, consciously or not, evokes the now-far-too-literary euphemism for orgasm. But it also serves naively as a guidemap to what the listener ought to expect. “Rainbow”—their most bouncy track on an album of bouncy tracks—lilts
I’m walking along, I’m stepping on cracks
I’m hoping to break somebody’s back.
Or take the driving pop jam, “Flamethrower.” The title says a lot, but let’s be clear on the ménage they love to give us. After 30 seconds of frolicsome “oh ohs,” we get
Killing time and killing me
Have fun on your killing spree //
I’m done fucking around.
I think copies of Lolita are now always sold with the Vanity Fair incantation on the cover: “The only convincing love story of our century.” Not convinced? Of all the catchy phrases Bobby Jealousy leaves for us like cookie crumbs outside an oven, the one I can’t get out of my head is Seth’s in a currently unreleased song. It goes—lovingly—
Don’t ask why it’s time to die //
We don’t need to know.
Bobby Jealousy has just begun an East Coast tour, starting at Red7 in Austin tonight, June 12th. Check their homepage for dates. Protip for New Yorkers: catch them at Cakeshop.