1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 189

This Machine, by The JB Conspiracy
Suggested by Alex Hamilton

In our house, I do the cooking.

I’m not a bad cook, but I’m nothing special. I have a handful of go-to staples that are so well rehearsed that I could rustle them up in the dark, but outside those?

My issue is that I lack a culinary imagination. I can’t taste a dish and discern that it needs more cumin. Give me a recipe and I can follow it to the letter, but once the dish is complete I’d be hard pressed to tell you what made it delicious, or terrible, or simply mediocre. If I’m lucky, the food is incredible. If I’m not, the food in inedible.

Musically, I’m similar in some ways. I know what individual elements make up the songs and bands I enjoy, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what binds these things together into the delightful plated meal.

As I’ve mentioned before, my favourite band is Fishbone. They take a slice of ska, a pinch of punk, a dash of rock and a finger of funk and blend it together into the sweetest cheesecake you’ll ever taste. Their recipe is a smorgasbord of ingredients, balanced to perfection.

Then there’s The JB Conspiracy, a seven-piece ska / punk / rock / funk outfit from London. In this edition of Ready Steady Cook, their bag contains the same ingredients as Fishbone over at the Red Pepper table, but their recipes aren’t nearly as scrumptious as those plied by the piscine collective.

Maybe it’s to do with the ingredient ratio. The JB Conspiracy are ska-heavy, but have a tighter focus on the punky aspect of their sound. It works, but it’s also a limiting factor to a brassy sound that has so much scope to soar. It’s a root-deep approach, written through the core of the music like a stick of Blackpool Rock, but it’s best showcased in songs like Superhero and 1989. They are driven and angry, with their energetic horn sections playing a metaphorical second fiddle to their melodic punk vocal. It’s a strength of sorts, this single-mindedness, but it means there’s little roaming range in the narrative, no quiet reflection or ruthless aggression, just an unwavering tempo and tension that runs from end to end.

Another point of difference might be ingredient quality. While the majority are hand picked from the Waitrose top shelf stock, the vocalist feels Tesco’s own brand, maybe Tesco’s Finest at best. His strengths are showcased in tracks like Time to Leave and my Reggae-tinged standout Be Aware, but there’s a whole host of others that show he’s tasty, but not gourmet.

This Machine gets a workaday 6/10. Overall, it’s a fairly balanced and nutritious meal, but despite its spicy ingredients there’s a dollop of oatmeal in the sauce.

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