Daily Archives: May 16, 2010

Jacobo: Jack Ruby Presents arrive in high fidelity, as they were meant to be heard

The release of Jack Ruby Presents’ debut LP, “Over Wires and White Plains,” could not have come at a better time. During my time at Linfield, they have consistently been at the top of the campus music scene. It’s been fun to watch their music evolve, take on a grander scope, accept the influences of more and more genres; in short, the music has become more complicated, ambitious, and as a result, it has continued to improve on itself. And now, as the band’s four members (seniors Chris Hernandez, Melissa Davaz, Aaron Owens and Jesse Hughey) prepare for graduation, the release of their debut comes as a bittersweet goodbye to the place that brought them together.

Jack Ruby Presents challenges listeners with a sound that doesn’t mimic something on the radio. It’s not simply a variation on what’s popular in indie or pop music circles. They don’t sing the usual set of John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz covers. They don’t steal their sound from MGMT or Vampire Weekend or Fleet Foxes, some of the most widely enjoyed and popular bands in indie right now.

They take risks, drawing inspiration from folk Americana, in the tradition of Guthrie and Dylan, yet neither of the two seem apt descriptions; the music is infused it with the sounds of the roots of rock and roll, a twist of modernity. They sing songs of whiskey, of death, of grimey cities full of lights on beautiful summer nights. They pay tribute to the Western sense of adventure in pine-filled woods and a greater consciousness, of Southern lynchings, of travels in London and Antwerp.

Five of the songs on the twelve-track album are tracks you’ve heard before on earlier releases; much of the material has been played at CatCabs, house parties, and bars in Portland.

But the secret to this album lies in the fidelity. Listen to the “Fingers” track from the “Strange Fruit single that was released last year: The song has a tinny, cold sound; the vocals are too soft, they don’t do justice to Hughey’s voice, hoarse and strained, worn down and raw like it’s the last song after a long night of yelling at the top of his lungs. The volume is too low: you can’t turn it up loud enough to get into the song. It doesn’t quite affect you in the way it should.

Now listen to the version of “Fingers” on “Over Wires and White Plains.” It sounds totally different: The guitar is dense, warm, full; Hughey’s vocals come alive, thicker and richer; you feel like he’s playing live in the corner of the room where the sound booms out of the speakers, loud like it was meant to be.

For the concentrated listener, it makes a world of difference. The range and emotion found in Davaz’s striking, soulful singing isn’t masked behind the lo-fidelity of a cheap recording. This is the song the way it was meant to be heard, almost as good as the band’s live shows, where the feelings are worn on their faces and the blasting speakers reverberating the music around the room, filling it something magical because it’s honest, not convoluted or relentlessly sophisticated or dumbed down; something true of human emotion, of sadness, of longing, of headaches and heartbreaks.

When you listen to this album, pay attention to the mixing and sound quality; the songs come alive here in the way that they couldn’t quite make it on “The Cardboard EP” and “Strange Fruit” single. The instrumentation fades and returns in layers of sound that add complexity to the band’s sound. The songs are as loud as you want them to be, with no degradation of quality. It’s like they are playing inside your head, taking the form of something larger than their combined personas, like this band is one that’s here to stay, if there’s anything right with the world.

In short, the album is stunning, allowing the listener to fall into the essence of the songs, to fall into the emotions related. And when the last vocals of the album’s final track fade and you can hear the squeaking hinge of a door opening and closing, you know they are leaving, but you want them to stay. You want them to play you a few more songs. You want an encore.

It seems fitting considering the band’s three members are all graduating in a few weeks; you certainly wonder where they’ll go and what they’ll do with all that musical talent.

Over Wires and White Plains is available for $10 via Jack Ruby Presents’ website, jackrubypresents.com

You can see them play their final Cat Cab show in Fred Meyer Lounge at 9 p.m. May 20.

Jordan Jacobo
Columnist Jordan Jacobo can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com

McCluskey: Side-line parents

Sitting here watching a little league baseball game, I can’t help but wonder what is circulating through the heads of the loud, rude and, in my opinion, confused parents who feel their kids will achieve ultimate sports success if only they can ridicule the officials and shout instructions to their children from 100 feet away. It seems most parents these days have taken way too much of an interest in the Western culture’s belief that individualistic success is of above all importance. Why these sorts of parents do not understand the uselessness and possibly traumatic effects of their actions, I will never know.

Some of the rudest comments I have ever heard from one human being to another have come from a parent of a young child and was directed to a sports official of one kind or another. Officials, whether it is a referee of basketball or an umpire of baseball, do not become inhuman when they put on the black-and-white striped shirt that unfortunately, is more of a bull’s eye than a piece of clothing. These parents bank on the idea that it is OK to ridicule the men and women that make every sport possible. Without them, their child’s beloved sport would be no more; without officials, who would call the games? The parents? I think not; they would never last. Instead of being forever grateful of these people, they mock every call and every decision that is not in their favor. The point and the goal to a competitive game is to have two teams fighting to be the best, making the game close and exciting and triggering passion within the players. But it seems these parents dream at night for all of their children’s games to be a one-sided stomping event and, of course, only their team ever getting the “W.” Why can’t a game just be a game? After all, it is only a game.

The most hilarious piece of this sad, but true, story are the many examples of “coaching” provided daily by these kinds of parents. They all believe they could coach the New York Yankees, or God forbid, my struggling Seattle Mariners. First off, these parents, I can only guess, are seemingly too old to remember that children do not listen to chatter from the sidelines. Maybe the younger bunch of kids will stare longingly at their parents behind the fence simply for their begging to go home, but not for coaching advice! The majority of kids will only ignore random calls from the stands. And second, if they do listen, does it help? Does the continuous criticism and demands of these parents help their children who are only trying to concentrate and have fun during a sporting event? What wisdom is so important that it cannot wait till after the game? This conversation has come up many times in my past playing sports, talking with my friends and teammates about this very subject, and I have heard too many times how traumatic these experiences had been on my then-young teammates. I myself was insanely lucky to have two quiet and supportive parents.

Support and understanding are the two most important qualities of a good parent in sports, or just life in general. Children do not need coaches at home; they do not need best friends at home; children need parents who will teach them about life and guide them through anything they need help with. I am afraid that the actions of these kinds of parents will develop certain complexes in the next generation of children as they become adults, as well as teach them inappropriate sporting activity behavior which, for all intents and purposes, transposes into the real world almost indefinitely. For arguments sake, the most friendly, respectful, and responsible people are most likely going to be those people who have a great sense of sportsmanship. Sports shape children like nothing else; this shaping can be excellent for a childhood because a child can use what he or she learned from their sporting activities, like respect, hard work, and passion to do good in the world as they mature into adulthood. But it can also be deleterious to a childhood, and to the subsequent adulthood. For example, the children who unfortunately learn, by accident, the wrong things from sports like the disrespect of others, cheating, and selfishness.

Only a very small percentage of children will ever grow up to play any sport professionally; with that said, shouldn’t academics be praised by parents a bit more than sports? Sports are great for children, my childhood and young adulthood would be nothing without them, but I still knew that I could make a bigger difference in the world, not squatting behind home plate.

Above all, humans are humans, and they should be treated as such despite opinion, profession, or other various differences.

Hannah McCluskey
Columnist Hannah McCluskey can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com