Somehow Jo – Tusk Review

I’m not sure what, if any, expectations I had for Finnish alt metallers Somehow Jo when I etched my crude shark sigil into the review boulder by their name. It’s not a moniker that really speaks to me and the artwork – although quite pretty – also doesn’t give a lot away. But you can be sure that any expectations I may have unconsciously harbored, plummeted when I read that sophomore album Tusk was written largely in a “small bunker next to a shady titty bar” and that, throughout, the band prioritized “freshness and originality in all of the ideas we’ve brought for the other members to be eaten and then later to be defecated in to a demo of some kind.” Just dumping – in any sense of that word – ideas into a bucket is rarely the way good records are made. I would imagine, anyway. Clearly written by someone for whom English is not a first language, was I judging Somehow Jo too harshly?

This is the follow up to 2015’s Satans of Swing, which was an upbeat mix of swing-infused rock and punky energy, marred by a patchy vocal performance and truly awful production. While both those issues have been addressed, if not wholly fixed, on Tusk, Somehow Jo have also switched up their style. The swing elements of their debut, limited as they already were (despite the title), are gone in favor of an altogether more alt metal feel to Tusk, employing synths and a lot more mood changes. From opening track, “Alcoholiday” on, I was immediately put in mind of New Yorkers 3. Staccato guitars, groovy, slapped bass lines, simple but effective drumming and clean rock vocals abound, punctuated by sudden hazy, bluesy shifts in pace and tone.

Singer Christian Sauren (who is also given charge of a guitar and the synths) belts out his lines with feeling, but a slightly nasal twang that I’m not a huge fan of creeps into his delivery at times. Some tracks, like “Heads and Tails” and “404,” also see fellow guitarist Sakari Karjalainen and bassist Eero Aaltonen on backing vocals, often opting for shouted, semi-hardcore choruses that don’t gel with the proggy, bass-led vibe Somehow Jo favor most of the time. Speaking of the bass, Aaltonen earns his keep throughout, churning out big, groovy bass lines one after another. Over the top, his colleagues throw in various stylistic influences, sometimes hinting at Primus-esque rock, and, by the time we reach album closer “10 000,” Somehow Jo – after the wavering sci-fi synth that opens the track – are even straying into territory bordering on ska.

Although other influences are tossed around, at its core, Tusk is uptempo alt metal, very much in the vein of 3’s 2004 record Wake Pig. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. I quite liked Wake Pig when it came out. But that was 15 years ago and I haven’t revisited it for … I don’t know. Possibly not since 2004. Somehow Jo are not offering that much here that’s markedly different, and I’m sorry to say that what they do offer sounds more than a bit lackluster, and thrown together. From the notes supplied with it, it would appear that Tusk was written over the course of about three years, with “Alcoholiday” apparently written on a monster hangover following the release party for Satans of Swing, with recording for the album finishing up at the end of 2018. And, frankly, it shows. The album lacks flow and the stylistic changes are at times jarring. The production is markedly improved from the debut, with this record sounding decent and Sauren’s vocal performance is much more consistent, if not necessarily always to my taste.

Overall, the four members of Somehow Jo appear to have eaten each other’s ideas and then, as they would have it, defecated them onto the record. As well as a bio of the band, I was also supplied with a track-by-track guide to Tusk, something that for a number of the records I have reviewed here, I would have genuinely been intrigued and happy to have. For Tusk, however, it serves only to demonstrate how disjointed and lightweight this record is. A few sections of it work – there are some genuinely nice soaring, bluesy guitar lines in “Heads and Tails,” for example – but overall it’s extremely difficult to recommend Tusk.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: |
Release Date: November 22nd, 2019

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