There's something about

If you came of age in the days of the second British invasion (a.k.a. "New Wave"), you'll remember a lot of supposed one-hit wonders. Some truly were: Spandau Ballet had a lot of albums, but no one remembers anything other than "True." But others, like Big Country and Level 42, had pretty solid careers. In places other than the U.S.

But people were listening. Every time I've cranked up the new Brothertiger (calling card of a certain John Jagos) set, I flash back to Level 42. And not just that band's one U.S. hit, "Something About You" (which, in truth, has to sit pretty high on just about any Top 100 Songs of the 80s list). But the totality of World Machine (the album from whence that song came) and the other two L42 albums that I've heard.

Future Splendors

I always thought I should go back and dig up more from that band. And Future Splendors is just another impetus. Not only does Brothertiger summon up the ambient/pop/vaguely funky feel of its British influence, it uses "There's something about you" within "Crazy, Again." It's a subtle nod, but the feel of the song ensures that a savvy listener won't miss the reference. Either that or it's a complete coincidence, and I'm simply reading way too much into this. But that's what critics are supposed to do!

More to the point, Brothertiger exhibits its pop tendencies only so often. More of the pieces on this album trend toward the abstract and ambient. At times, there's even a mellow experimental feel. If you were wondering, it is a similar refusal to play the pop game that doomed Level 42 in the States. World Machine is chock full of songs that sound nothing like "Something About You." Future Splendors is chock full of electronic sounds that often have little to do with the song that came before.

I don't hear this as being willfully obtuse, however. The album has a wonderful flow, largely because Brothertiger never quite leaves its dispassionate comfort zone. This is not an album of ranting and raving. It is programmed as a thoughtful chilldown. And while my 12-year-old self would have been pissed off (and possibly even bitched about a bait-and-switch), my 43-year-old self is content to sit back and contemplate existence now and again.

More importantly, Brothertiger updates the whole electronic pop/jazz sound with the ambient and other more recent developments. The sounds are gorgeous, and they pack a wallop even at their most diffuse. There's still a high nostalgia factor to my ear, but I find nothing wrong with that. Bringing an overlooked sound back is always a welcome idea. Improving upon that sound is sublime.

Jon Worley

return to A&A home page