BJ's Rocket

A year after some tasty national press, Buck Jones releases its second album

Buck Jones would make a good subject for a rock 'n' roll fable as cast by O. Henry: Genie grants struggling young band a wish--say, a mention in some major publication--and a couple of months later, they're still sitting around the garage. Nobody new seems to know about them, and their gig schedule is still spotty, so they finally reach the genie on his mobile phone and ask him: "Where's the gigs, the fame, the fortune, and all that stuff?"

"Hey, babe," the genie says. "You didn't say anything about that."
When Buck Jones received a favorable mention in Billboard magazine last summer, people held their breath, waiting for the glorious ascent. After a while, they started breathing again. In the winter it was heard that Buck Jones had signed to steve records, but for the most part they continued to be a band more folks had heard of than heard.

Breaking down after a rehearsal in south Arlington, the band--husband-and-wife team Gabrielle and Burette Douglas (both sing, and they play bass and guitar, respectively), guitarist Tommy Meador, and drummer Cody Lee--reflects on that time. "When it was happening, it didn't seem like that big a deal," recalls Burette, sitting on the floor wiping down his two Gibson SG guitars. "At the time, we were like, 'eh,' but now it seems really cool."

"But it didn't open any doors, clubwise," counters Gabrielle. "Clubs don't care about who you are in the press; they care if you can get people to show up."

"It did do us some good, though," Burette insists. "We had a handful of labels call wanting us to do something for them, and that got us to making demos again."

About a month ago, posters started appearing around town announcing the band and Shimmer, their debut for steve. On it, band members crowd together while Gabrielle leers up at the camera as if secure in some secret, slightly twisted knowledge. Luridly colored, the poster makes them look distant and more than a little decadent--you know, like rock stars.

Little of that carries over in person, at least not tonight; they're a surprisingly handsome bunch. Meador, clean-shaven with short hair, looks more like he works with a calculator than with a Les Paul; Burette, with his long, shaggy locks and glasses, seems the hippie artist, an impression his gentle, thoughtful demeanor reinforces. Lee, tanned and wiry with close-cropped hair, has all the focus of his profession, and Gabrielle--in cutoffs with her blue-tinted hair done up in two ponytails--looks a lot more like the resident of some post-punk Li'l Abner comic strip than the depraved rock waif on the poster.

They're an affable bunch as well. Together for approximately three years, the quartet is talkative, each reacting to the other, finishing each other's sentences, and occasionally all speaking at once when a particularly important point needs to be made. Burette is obviously the leader--he and Gabrielle write all the songs--but not at the expense of anyone else. All in their early 20s, the four seem just the band that you'd expect to put out Shimmer, a fine slice of post-Nirvana pop and the logical follow-up to their first, independently released album Shoegazer.

Shimmer is a collection of elements balanced against each other: screaming guitars and gentle strumming, loud and soft passages, guitar convention and odd, squonking noises. Chunks of noise crash across an underlying sense of flow, sometimes almost dreamy, which lends the album exactly the quality that the title implies. The lyrics back up this dreamy quality, sometimes specifically concerned with a subject, sometimes a collection of seemingly unrelated phrases that might be passkeys to other events, if only the listener knew what other events.

"Wasted" starts off the album with a blocky, falling-down-the-stairs rhythm reinforced by thick guitar chords. The song's downward cant matches the subject, which is a kiss-off to someone who has self-indulgently screwed up for the last time. The rancor of the verses--"Just leave me alone"--matches the roar of the guitars, balanced by a chorus that flows more smoothly. Although that mellower chorus ends with "I love you anyway," there isn't much ambivalence in Burette's delivery, which plainly is that of someone on his way out.

Buck Jones' balancing act lends their songs--like "After Today"--a sense of being composed of movements, almost like a mini-symphony for pop instruments. "Night and Day" is a Beatles-y number, while "Aged" starts off with a (Grand) Funky boogie guitar line that supports poppy vocals. "Underground Crown" shows off the group's appreciation for the harder stuff with a metallic sheen that's nicely bombastic--thumping, not thudding, and garnished with a good ol' shrieking-feedback guitar lead. Burette's vocals keep things direct and grounded, while Gabrielle's more ethereal voice constantly tugs skyward. "T.J.'s Rocket" first appeared on a demo about a year ago and is reprised here more fully fleshed out. Propulsive, without a clear subject, "T.J.'s Rocket" provides an insight into the band's songwriting process.

"It's really about, like, four different things," Burette explains. "The verse was 'I hear this melody,' and that would inspire some lyrics. Then I'd hear a different melody and work that in, with words to match--"

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