Album of the Week: Jesus H. Foxx – Endless Knocking
“This seems to be becoming the narrative of the album release” says Michael Hunter of Jesus H. Foxx when pressed about why it’s taken so long to get Endless Knocking out. It’s a fair question.
It really is years since “the Foxx” (not be confused with Jesus H. Christ or John Foxx) have put out any new music and gigs have been sporadic at best. We can only think of a Come on Gang! support slot and a Song, by Toad Christmas bash where we’ve seen their name on a poster.
As Hunter goes on to say, there are a myriad of reasons behind this but thankfully it’s largely worth the wait.
They’ve expanded their line-up since those early EPs and rather than the rawer sound of old, Endless Knocking is mostly intricate chamber pop with one eye on the US, with the smattering of folk fairy dust that you’d expect from a band making heavy use of violin and glockenspiel.
Hunter’s even baritone brings a sense of calm to the occasion, his voice eminating an air of both exasperation and a feeling he’s seen all this before.
Even when the music whips up a storm – like the climax to So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away – his delivery suggests little more than a raised eyebrow and a knowing look. Permanent Defeat settles into a smart little groove and the similarly languid backing vocals of multi-instrumentalist Tallah Brash get a run-out on Elegy for the Good, as does her charming cornet.
That song in particularly exemplifies the album with it’s incredibly tight instrumentation and stylistic changes throughout its running time. You’ll get the feeling that the Foxx aren’t unfamiliar with the work of Grizzly Bear and there’s even a dose of Los Campesinos! and Slow Club in the mix. All good though, and certainly not derivative.
Even when slide guitar and Afrobeat rhythms are slipped into the same song it somehow works and again, Hunter doesn’t seem remotely bothered at the threats of being eaten alive in the lyrics, be they literal or metaphorical.
For all it’s genre mixing, this is a markedly less challenging listen that the other recent Song, by Toad release, An Eagle to Saturn by The Leg. Endless Knocking could be seen almost as a companion piece – the bands share a city, a record label, a work ethic (sorry, I’ll stop now…) and a playful feel to them.
This is certainly the calmer of the two albums and a pleasant reminder of what Jesus H. Foxx were all about all those years ago.
Sorry again, here’s that interview with Michael Hunter.
Dear god, you’ve been around for years. Why has it taken so long to get an album out?
This seems to be becoming the narrative of the album release. Basically, loads of reasons – Steve moving to Australia was a big one, day jobs, changes in sound and personnel… above all though, we just wanted to do it right, and perhaps got kind of weighed down by that. In retrospect, the Matter EP probably should’ve been the first album, rather than the first half of one.
What’s been the biggest influence on Endless Knocking?
I think the beauty of there being so many of us in the band is the ragbag of influences - I think people can hear loads of different things in the band, and its pretty hard to dismiss this record as a straight up rip-off of someone else, which is great. I mean, we could go through the record bit by bit and point out all the stuff we’ve ripped off and mention Animal Collective, The Boredoms, Death From Above, Deerhoof, Paul Simon, Dirty Projectors, The Beach Boys and Zapp and Roger and so on and so on and so on but that’s probably a bit of a self-defeating exercise. In saying that, Talking Heads, R.E.M. (1981-86) and Jonathan Richman were and have always been enduring influences.
Jesus H. Foxx live in 2009 (!!) by Markus Thorsen
Do you think your sound has changed since your earlier recordings?
Yeah, I think that’s pretty evident! I guess you could say there’s a lot of reasons for this. Primarily, it has a lot to do, again, with the personnel. On the first single, we were a classic/basic four-piece – guitar/guitar/bass/drums, and we’ve got a lot more flexibility now. We agreed whilst continually adding members – we’re back up to seven, at last count – that it was extremely important that more instruments did not simply equal “louder”, but rather more dynamic. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of everyone playing all the time, so restraint is important, kind of more like a pop orchestra, where instruments drop in and out, and everyone has their parts and cues. I think, conversely, the more members we’ve added, the quieter it’s allowed us to become, simply because we have more options. Also, the longer we’ve been playing, the more confident we’ve become – in the early days, I think we were falling into that trap of trying to play so fast and loud that the audience couldn’t talk over us, I just kind of presumed that’s what you had to do. It was a show by Rob St. John, actually, that really changed my mind on this – watching him play Acid Test to a silent, rapt audience proved to me you could play quiet at a local show and people would listen.
Will you be marking the release with a run round the festival circuit and a world tour?
If Dunfermline, Coatbridge and Stirling constitute a world tour, then absolutely. I’d really love to tour the Highlands, its a pretty long-held ambition of mine. Though its purely selfish, I’m really hoping we can do that.