Monday, April 10, 2017

Expanded Review: "Jupiter Rex" by Finn's Motel

Jupiter Rex
It was May or June in 1994. A major change had just happened again my life. For the third time, I had crossed the Mississippi River on a permanent basis, and thus far the last. Friends of mine had convinced me to attend the Frente! concert at Mississippi Nights.

105.7 The Point was handing out keychains and concert tickets to a free show the next week featuring The Zoo and an indie St. Louis band called The Finns. You have to remember, in 1994, I was more metal than metal.

I had at least 4 death metal records. So, modern rock, as it's known now, was antithetical to me as it wasn't the most extreme metal. So, just being there was risking excommunication from my brotherhood.

That night, I purchased my fourth (I think fourth) wholly independent album, JuCo by the Finns. One has to remember that in 1994, buying indie music wasn't as easy as it is now, or as normal. You almost had to be at a show or one of the few independent record stores.

Joe Thebeau of Finns Motel
Years later, while dating a woman who became my wife, we found out nearly 15 years later, that we both loved that band back in the day. Upon finding out that Finns leader(?) Joe Thebeau was still performing as Finn's Motel, we were excited.

At my very first Record Store Day at Euclid Records, I bought Escape Velocity on CD. What was in store later was a surprise.

Escape Velocity was released in 2007 and JuCo in 1994. There's been a bit of a gap, but here we are with Jupiter Rex and there's tale of a followup in the very near future.

Recently, Thebeau invited me over to his home studio to hear the record for the first time. Before we headed to the studio, he and his wife entreated me to grilled hot dogs and beers. We were definitely drinking at beer speed. (I was smart enough to know when to say when. I had a limit.)

I sat on the couch staring at his computer, rack gear, and impressive collection of guitars to my left. He cranked up the volume and blasted Jupiter Rex at me. "It's never loud enough" he told me.

As we listened, he told me little bits here and there about this album and how it was crafted. "There's that fuzzy bass you like!" It's true, I dig a dirty bass. That's Gene Simmons's fault.

Much like its predecessor, Jupiter Rex is a semi-minimalist rock record with a Napoleon complex. Engineer and guitarist Matt Meyer took the raw tracks and sweetened them up. "Those aren't real strings. Matt made them with an app on his phone" Joe told me.

Then there was the track where the strings were real, recorded with a quartet in a church. "THESE are real strings." My apologies for not having precise tracks, because well, my memory is a tad cloudy from that evening, but it's possible that this was on the second record. OK, so yes, there's a second Finn's Motel Record coming this year too.

Found sounds, which guitars he used, Thebeau told me all about how it was recorded.

The album's a tale of two sides. "The first side of this record sounds just like The Finns" Thebeau exclaimed after telling the preceding passage was his Thin Lizzy part.

Quite right he was. The first side was a rollicking good time series of tracks. The second, gets more sentimental and ornate. The acoustics melding in with the 12 string guitars. The balladry far surpasses nearly everything on Escape Velocity.

He's never been a traditional vocalist, but on this record, Thebeau turns in the best performance I've heard from him yet. Thebeau has no issues rocking out and going mellow when the time comes.

These songs feel like a time lapse photo of a rock'n'roll lifestyle. At first it's a party without any serious need to feel empathy. Then age starts to set in mellowing out. There's even a mid-life crisis half way through the second side.

All I ever want from an artist is to constantly surpass everything they've ever done with each successive release. Finn's Motel have certainly been able to do that.

Release: 4/22/17
Genre: Modern Rock
Label: Victory Over Gravity Records

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