BIG STIR RECORDS and SPYGENIUS are delighted to announce the June 24 release of JOBBERNOWL – a brand new album from the celebrated Canterbury, England masters of literate psych-inflected pop rock – on CD and all digital platforms. The record featuring 11 new originals including the lead single/focus track “Son Of The Morning, Go Man Go!” is up for pre-order at www.bigstirrecords.com
now, and will be on record store shelves and streaming worldwide on the street date. The band's seventh album, JOBBERNOWL follows the acclaimed and ambitious 2020 double LP MAN ON THE SEA and 2021 tribute collection SPYGENIUS BLOW THEIR COVERS, fusing the emotive heft of the former with the rollicking energy of the latter into a visceral but sophisticated set, framed by the combination of wit, hooks and harmony that define SPYGENIUS.
“It's mostly about bereavement, you know. That and epistemology,” says singer, guitarist and chief songwriter PETER WATTS. But if that suggests that JOBBERNOWL is a continuation of the absorbing moodiness of Man On The Sea, it takes little more than hitting “play” to reveal that this album is involving in a very different way. The punning title of lead track “I Dig Your Your New Robes, Pierre!” gives the game away, and the groove that comes blasting out of the speakers – anchored by a tasty retro organ groove from keyboard player MATT BYRNE and propelled forward by the rhythm section of drummer ALAN CANNINGS and bassist RUTH ROGERS – is positively ebullient and even danceable. The surreally bluesy rocker “Sky Pie, Century 21” follows and keeps feet moving even as Watts unspools what must be the most erudite set of lyrics ever to start with the words “Now daddio, you gotta listen!” SPYGENIUS may be grappling with the tough stuff, but they're here to rock, not mope, and the tension kicks the record into high gear from the get-go.
There's a sense that the band had hoped to continue the loose and (for lack of a better word) “fun” vibe of the covers album, but the tenor of the COVID-era times and a number of deep personal losses wouldn't allow it. Instead they weave the approaches of the previous two records together and manage the staggeringly cathartic feat of being playful in confronting grief and befuddling trying times. You can hear the album's exhilarating collision between the introspective and the effervescent captured in full on the single “Son Of The Morning, Go Man Go!” It hums with touches of the '80s college rock sounds and vintage '60s psych alike, alternately breezy and sinister 12-string jangle and pristine harmonies, and an effortless progression from its beautifully airy opening to darker, urgently galloping passages and an anthemic climax worthy of The Who. And yet it flows, its radio-ready sheen and supple melodies belying its darker undercurrents. That's JOBBERNOWL in a nutshell, to the extent that the record's carefully orchestrated contradictions can be contained.
Spygenius may bristle at being called “clever,” but one need only scan the song titles here to confirm that their reputation for reveling in the sheer joy of language is in full bloom. Beyond “Pierre!” wordplay abounds on the liltingly sly political satire “Mandy Rice-Davies Applies,” “The Marvellous, Mendacious Time Machine” (a Nuggets-evoking swirl that's at once retro and anti-nostalgia) and the closing, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-inspired “Foucault Swings Like A Pendulum Do”. Each drips with droll and very British wit. This is truly a record which, while teasing the ears with instantly memorable hooks, will send listeners to the lyric sheet and Watts' song notes to make sure the've heard what they thought they heard... only to discover even more buried references, linguistic gymnastics, and rewarding conceptual easter eggs. Humor is the weapon of choice in combatting heartbreak here, and Jobbernowl is as genuinely funny as it is sonically enthralling.
There is no mistaking the fact that the band is tackling the macro- and microcosmic cataclysms of the past two years head-on – the brooding “2020 Revision” is but the most explicit expression of loss and befuddlement. But there's glee in the way Spygenius convert it all into song, and Watts goes so far as to drop the exhortation “Hark, hark let’s have a lark!” into the Revolver-meets-The Velvets rumination “Metamorphosis” amongst near-apocalyptic imagery of insect overlords, virgin vermin and behemoth butterflies. There's room along the way for “Screwy” – a bouncy mashup between Motown, Kirsty MacColl and Ringo Starr written and sung by bassist Rogers – and the gorgeous 6/8 sway of the culturally contemplative “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air”. The themes come together in the way the penultimate track (the stately, mournful “Of Narcissus”, one of several meditations on mortality occasioned by the sudden passing of the band's dear friend, collaborator Matthew Seligman of The Soft Boys) dovetails into the unapologetic goofiness of the closer.
“It’s also about overcoming, about carrying what you can of those you’ve lost with you,” says Watts. “And about how if darkness is the shore of life, then silence is the shore of music, of human music, the music you must dance to when your limbs are numb and twisted with grief.” He's speaking of one track, but it may sum up all of JOBBERNOWL. Visually bedecked as always in the distinctive design work of the inimitable and enigmatic CHAMPNISS, the latest dispatch from SPYGENIUS may be a more beautiful commentary on the state of the world today than that world deserves. But it's also a source of solace, a thrilling ride, and another jewel in the crown of Canterbury's kings (and queen) of musical mayhem. Big Stir is honored to bring it to you.