There are a few points which the casual observer should note about
1. Jeff Heiskell was the frontman of (and possibly the soul behind)
the early 90's college rock wonderband The Judybats.
2. Clip-On Nose Ring is Heiskell's second "solo"
release since The Judybats went missing sometime around 1995.
3. Jeff Heiskell doesn't beat around the bush. The man tells it like
he sees it, straight up.
4. Jeff Heiskell's got a dark, dark soul.
5. Jeff Heiskell surrounds himself with some mighty fine musicians.
Keeping these fine points in mind, it is no surprise that Clip-On
Nose Ring is a wonderful collection of songs. The album flows
seamlessly between genres, skipping lithely between the iconoclastic
college rock of songs like "I Want The World To Change"
and semi-ridiculous joke rock like "The Chubby Guy Song".
Jeff Heiskell's lyrics still stand as the strongest part of his music,
as he turns his pen inward to espouse the things that are more important
to him in a more straightforward style than ever before. His brilliant
melodies are still extent, but his lyrics have taken a bit of a turn
from more obscure references to simply stating, in a decidedly poetic
manner, how he feels about everyday challenges that face him
and you. "I Want The World To Change" is simply a somewhat
selfish plea for the world to accept difference and revel in that
acceptance. "Helluva Summer" begins in rocking fashion,
reminding me of The Vapor's "Trains" in rhythm and
tone as it tells the story of summer love gone missing, or awry, or
whatever. The love song is not neglected as Heiskell bounds tirelessly
through the glittering rock of songs like "Everdear", but
most of these songs have the bitter darkness that we've come to expect
from Jeff's lyrics. As the light melodies barrel through their songs,
careful attention shows that Heiskell isn't so much singing about
love as it goes on, but laying down funeral dirges for good love gone
bad, or simply gone. The gritty alt. rock of "Still A Place"
is about as dark as the music gets, ably conveying the spirit of the
lyrics, until Jeff sidesteps into country territory with his very
dark cover of the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene".
As Jeff tackles his first real foray into the country music realm,
he takes complete ownership of the song, darkening the lyric even
more as he turns his normally joyous voice into an ominous haunting
scrape. Heiskell slows the tempo, relies musically on dirgey drumming
and acoustic guitar offset with some great simple banjo (!!) rolls
that really set the mood for the song.
Clip-On Nose Ring finds Heiskell walking the familiar ground
of dark songs with bright music that his fans have come to expect
from him. But in addition to the poppy music and tongue in cheek lyrical
sense that he's always brought to the table, Jeff has also taken the
time to stretch his sound, incorporating more folk elements, and the
darker sides of country music. The sum of these seemingly disparate
parts is far greater than anything Jeff has ever created before. Clip-On
Nose Ring shows that Heiskell has grown as a person, while becoming
more comfortable telling the world his innermost personal reflections
and battles, all the while taking a few musical chances and coming
out a winner in the game.
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