Two in one... As far as I can see, there are two Jinkies: the band that cares, and the band that could not care less. Identifying traits of the caring Jinkies include an inclination toward craftsmanship, a penchant for contagious hooks and a conscientious effort to not only mimic their British Invasion and new wave antecedents, but to chew on them, swish them around and spit them out in juicy, inspired wads of post-punk irritability.
The could-not-care-less Jinkies, on the other hand, are a frustrating species. They show themselves on local stages irregularly, and when they do, it's normally in a disheveled, half-trying state, with sloppy performances that rarely do their tunes justice.
Encouragingly, the Jinkies mostly sound like a band that cares on their debut CD Everest, the much-anticipated release of which the group finally celebrates with a show at the Urban Art Bar Thursday. Less encouragingly, perhaps, I had to roust Jinkies singer/guitarist Carlos DeLeon out of bed at the last minute to get a taped copy of the new 13-song effort that I had been promised a few weeks back. DeLeon, however, seemed genuinely concerned about what I would think of it, perhaps another sign that the Jinkies are on their way to actually giving a shit (or maybe they always have, and were good at hiding it).
Little time is wasted on Everest getting to the sentimental center of the Jinkies's pure pop instincts. By the second track, the pretty and basic "Sinking Fast," it's apparent that in the studio, the band isn't game for the sort of pointless screwing around that drags down its live shows. Even prettier is "Baby Never Cries," a tailor-made hit from another era, with its vintage Chuck Berry bridge and slide guitar peeled partly intact from Abbey Road. There's also DeLeon's chronic case of Lennonitis, a highly effective nostalgia-booster the singer uses to even cooler effect on "Here She Comes," another Beatles-ish number with dorky "bop-bop" harmonies; "Cool Friends," a slow-building whiner's epic with decidedly undorky harmonies; and "YerSong," which could almost pass as an outtake from Let It Be. (Is that Billy Preston on the keyboards, or maybe Linda McCartney?)
Sure, there's some mindless junk to occasionally threaten the CD's favorable flow. But with the right equipment, you can program out the duds and spare yourself the disappointment of realizing that the Jinkies's "Revolution," though given the same title as the Beatles's song, lacks even the slightest crumb of the gut-check urgency that informed the Fab Four's tune (and no, it doesn't work as a parody either).
In light of Everest's impressive peaks and comparatively few valleys, the Jinkies's public stance -- the way they venture on-stage to the scattered applause of their small legion of fans, looking like they'd rather be drinking at the bar -- seems somewhat contrived. Maybe it's fear of success, or maybe they're making an underhanded statement on the questionable taste of local music fans -- a statement that, to my mind, reads something like this: "Hell, we're a good band, no one comes to see us, so what does it matter how crummy we sound. In fact, what does it matter if we play at all?"
There are times when the Jinkies's pained nonchalance irks me, but mostly it just makes me sad. For, meandering about that hazy, lazy Jinkies aura is the potential for excellence, only it's mired in all that premeditated crumminess. Yes, the Jinkies are a great band -- one of the best in town -- and Everest lays out their greatness, lumps and all, for everyone to hear. Here's hoping the band has a good long listen as well.
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Acid samba?... Stand aside jungle; lately, the trendy nightclubs in London and New York City are tossing Spanish influences into their house-music mix. And Soular Cafe, Houston's take on the acid jazz experience (which mixes live music with hip-hop and other dance-floor beats) is following their lead. While the last Soular Cafe event -- held every few months at Rockefeller's -- featured the Live Shop Players, an ensemble that incorporated Latin music into its jazz/funk repertoire, Thursday's show is taking that idea one step further with a lengthy performance by the local Brazilian group Atravessados. Using as their blueprint the new Red Hot and Rio CD -- a compilation of classics by the late Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Girl from Ipanema") reworked by artists such as Sting, Maxwell and George Michael -- the eight-piece group is preparing a rigorous, high-endurance melange of bossa novas, sambas, pagode ("a slower version of the samba," says band leader Joe Monteiro, "more lyrical") and reggae-sambas.
"They'll go three and a half hours at something like 120 beats per minute," says Soular Cafe host Andre Sam-Sin, whose turntable expertise is normally featured before and after the live music. "They're gonna wear the people out before I even get a chance to go back on."
Etc.... In other Rockefeller's news, the club's owners have announced that they will again try their hand at expansion, with a new, larger downtown location slated to open next fall. With room for about 1,100 more people than its parent club, the new Rock's will be an anchor tenant at Bayou Place, the much-ballyhooed, oft-postponed redevelopment project in the Albert Thomas Convention Center. Pray it doesn't sink as swiftly as Rockefeller's West did on the Richmond Strip.
-- Hobart Rowland