We’ve been seeing it since the dawn of time: when one band finds success, record company execs stumble over themselves trying to sign the next great version of that band. Rarely is the next great version actually found: instead, what we usually end up with are tepid versions of the original, competent yet missing that certain intangible (and more often than not also missing decent songwriting). Case in point: the critical success bands like Royal Thunder and Blues Pills have enjoyed in recent years. Record labels are wading through quagmires looking for the next great female-fronted retro blues/metal acts, and tossing half-baked ideas at us in the hopes that something sticks. So I find myself peeling Travelin Jack’s second album, Commencing Countdown, off my face, and trying to figure out which echelon they belong in.

Travelin Jack clearly live in the 70s, despite the band saying “there’s nothing retro about our material.” Talk about self-delusion. First, the band members have stage names like Flo The Fly, Steve Burner, and Alia Spaceface. Second, they put themselves together like a DIY-lite version of Kiss, with goofy clothes and even goofier makeup. And third, they list old-time acts such as Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple as influences. Honestly, that kinda works for me, gimmicks and all, as long as they can play and write. These Germans gave us a good taste of what they were about on 2015’s debut New World, so here’s hoping they can take things up another level.

Commencing Countdown kicks off majestically with “Land of the River,” and you know immediately where the focus is: Spaceface and her impressive pipes. But she’s not the only member who impresses quickly, as a solid, infectious groove that’s in no rush plants itself in the ground. “Land of the River” proves itself to be a perfect opening song, featuring great writing, a solid performance by the band, and some stellar vocal work. “Metropolis” carries on with more of the same: it’s a song that will definitely kick ass live, and for the more aurally discerning amongst us, it’s fun to hear the tape flange effect on the hi-hat. “Keep on Running” has a slinky riff, and is the most Blues Pills-y song here, while “Galactic Blue” is another grinding stomper that will kill live.

Sadly, Travelin Jack can’t maintain momentum through the ten songs presented here, and the reason for this frustrates me. Spaceface has a great voice, but it’s more effective when kept in check, and too often throughout Commencing Countdown she sings the hell out of the songs – too much hell, to the point of exhaustion. “Cold Blood” is a decent galloper of a tune, but the vocals get shouty, tiresome, and annoying. Slow burner “Time” should be her showcase, and during the slower moments it almost is, but she just can’t keep her performance in check all the way through. “Miracles” is grating, while “Fire” has an awesome pure 70s riff that is destroyed by shouting. It’s such an annoying performance that it almost negates all of her great work on earlier songs.

So when it’s all said and done, where do Travelin Jack fit within the greater scheme of things? Certainly not on the same level as Royal Thunder or Blues Pills, but definitely in the tier just below. A bit of restraint on the part of Alia Spaceface, a bit more variation in the songs, and the band could be on their way to bigger things. As it stands, Commencing Countdown is the kind of album that will have you pulling two or three songs out and adding them to your Favorites playlist. Here’s hoping the band’s next album as a whole can end up on a list like that.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Steamhammer/SPV
Websites: travelinjack.bandcamp.com | travelinjack.com | facebook.com/travelinjackband/
Releases Worldwide: September 8th, 2017

 

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  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Mmmmm
    New Myrkur…..wait….what?
    Sorry….wrong review.

  • Nukenado

    The cover deserves a shaming…
    There’s not even a background!

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      They look like Nightwish’s stunt doubles.

      • Kronos

        Out of a job now that that moped-based photoshoot went by so safely.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      And why is her head coming out of that peacock’s rectum in the band photo?
      Where the hell is PETA??

      • Nukenado

        That peacock is probably her true form.

  • HeavyMetalHamster
    • Nukenado

      Very striking.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        It has a background now….

        • Nukenado

          A classy one at that. Probably could boost to 3.0.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Love it

  • John Mosley

    Cool band name. Borrowed from the protagonist of Steven King’s The Talisman. A pretty great read.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      I thought it sounded familiar.
      That novel was phenomenal.

      • Master of Muppets

        They all are. Except the ones that aren’t, but even then they’re King so they rule.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          I admit to being disappointed with Black House. Likely because Talisman was so good.
          I like to pretend I’m in The Long Walk whenever my wife forces me on hikes…..

          • Master of Muppets

            I actually read Black House first, so I’m probably biased. Really, though, I think Gerald’s Game, Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne are the only ones I never got into by King, he’s that good in my eyes. I’d always thought we just over-hyped him here in Maine since he, blueberries and lobster are all we have here, it still surprises me when people know his work outside of Carrie and “the clown movie (ugh)”.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Yeah I read all his books as a messed up teenager and young adult. The Dark Tower series was always a fav too.

          • Master of Muppets

            Lisey’s Story is my all time favorite, I can shamelessly say that I’ve never not cried at the ending and I’ve read it at least 15-20 times. Sai King is a true wordslinger, hear me I beg.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I’m glad you said that as I was about to comment otherwise!
      Moments ago I didn’t like the band name then reading its origin I suddenly like it… Bizarre!

      • John Mosley

        It’s a cool, rather obscure reference. Book is recommended.

        • Master of Muppets

          That Black House, tho…

          • John Mosley

            Black House was… okay. A different animal entirely. I did like the biker hang of burly philosophy professors called The Hegelian Scum.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Commencing countdown engines on….

  • Dagoth_RAC

    Nothing is “retro” when you are so stoned you truly believe it is 1978.

  • Choodi

    For me, nothing has come close to The Riven in the female-fronted retro blues/metal sub-genre.

  • lennymccall

    Listing to the older record on Bandcamp and gotta say I’m digging this.
    Kind of a less occult Jess and the Ancient Ones. Love her smoky blues leaning voice, and the band is keeping things damn interesting.