Paul de Jong strives to produce a second album that encompasses the chaos and overstimulation of modern living, but the end result moves into unlistenable territory in too many places.
Paul de Jong acted as one half of The Books for the duration of their life as a band, and his sophomore solo effort You Fucken Sucker reminds listeners of both their highs and their lows. The eclectic, sample driven and aleatoric nature of The Books is still intact, but without the melodic charm or songwriting tact of Nick Zammuto; the project is perhaps too experimental for its own good.
Songs like ‘It’s Only About Sex’, ‘The Wind’ or ‘Johnny No Cash’ play to De Jong’s strengths in their scattershot sampling techniques, his role as the ‘collector’ of the band fully realised and at its most virtuosic. He blends genres of music, spoken-word passages and sliced samples seamlessly together into suites of sound that surprise in their uniqueness. This totally unique nature extends to the album as a whole, its tracks presented in the exact order they were created, an obtuse documentary of the ‘personal trauma’ that inspired it. Other tracks, such as ‘Doomed’ or ‘Doings’ take the near comedic approach to music found on The Books’ final album The Way Out, looping self-help tapes in entertaining manners that almost serve as ‘skits’ between longer pieces. These tracks, whilst entertaining at first, don’t have nearly the same staying power as the rich plunderphonics of anything from Lost and Found, The Lemon of Pink or even De Jong’s solo debut, IF.
But it’s on songs like ‘Wavehoven’, ‘Breaking Up’ or ‘The Jar Bell’ where De Jong truly pushes his audience into dire territory, his unique approach to music completely alienating to an audience familiar with the work of The Books, let alone the curious first-time listener. These are drawn out passages of sound that tire quickly – especially the distressing ‘Breaking Up’ in which dissonant instrumentation is layered atop the yelps and screams of a jilted lover. These songs are bizarre, moody and abstract, but not in a way that is at all compelling to listen to more than once – diminishing the listenability of the album as a whole hugely, especially considering they take up the bulk of its runtime.
To put it simply, You Fucken Sucker is a mess of an album. However creative and unique it may try to be, its deliberately alien nature does not advocate more than a few curious listens. It has to be admired how far De Jong has pushed himself to create an album that encompasses the overflow of the senses that modern life enforces on us, but the result of this is an album that questions how we define musical greatness. Although it exits as a perfect realisation of De Jong’s musical intent, this album tires on repeat listens due to its very nature – a document to be consumed once within the hectic lives of its listeners, contemplated briefly, and left well alone afterwards. It’s hard to tell if this makes it a perfect album or a terrible one – but if one thing is for sure, it would be that I’d rather listen to anything by The Books instead.
You Fucken Sucker is out now via Temporary Residence
I’d like to take up a little space at the bottom of this review to wholeheartedly recommend every single album by The Books. ‘Lost and Safe’ is their most accessible, immediate and perhaps ‘musical’ album, blending styles and techniques in ways that are incredibly poignant on every listen. ‘Smells Like Content’ is a great place to start. Nick Zammuto, the other member of the band along with De Jong, also has a small discography of his own that’s unique in its own way. ‘It Can Feel So Good’ or ‘Yay’ are good places to start there. They’re one of the most strange, but also engaging musical projects out there and are absolutely worth your time.