by Daniel Kussy
Out from the depths of winter hibernation comes “Frustrated Machine,” the eclectic debut album from theatrical pop-rock outlet Joko Tea.
For its complex sound and style, the songwriting comes together in dynamic fashion, and it’s colourful melodies flourish in such a way that has the listener using their entire body to move with the music. “James” is one of the biggest earworms on the album with its lounge-pop tempo. “Crick,” the lead single, is written in multiple parts that sees the song move from a repetitive yet boppy bass heavy riff, to an electronic explosion complete with a thick synth chorus as well as Hamilton’s vocals sprinkled with autotune.
Though Max Hamilton is the primary behind the songs written on Frustrated Machine, the roster of musicians that make the rest of Joko Tea have also been trained musically on top of cutting their chops within the scene through multiple projects. Joko Tea as a collective are oozing with passion and creativity, though they are not without their humorous touch. Listen for Hamilton playing captain on “Tiny Sailer” as well as his take on the wilhelm scream in “Crick” and “Real Ghosts.”
The band’s biggest showcase appears in the form of “The Dawnheads,” a nearly 14-minute exploration of theatrics with your ears. Originally released as a stand-alone track, “The Dawnheads” quickly takes the form of a rock opera. Alex Peters provides vocals for the first chapter, before Hamilton comes in with a suspenseful change in tone as if to introduce a conflict or a possible resolve, as the finale explodes with guitars and feedback. It isn’t until the start of the next (and final) track, “3 Memories” that I contemplate how this Goliath of a track has played into a possible bigger theme the album has kept under the table. If that’s the case, then “3 Memories” starts with a bigger bang where the last ended. Even louder, crunchier guitars and melodies that harken to Blue Album-era Weezer make for a real finish to the album and introduce a side of Joko Tea not yet met.
As Joko Tea exists within its own drive to challenge what it can achieve through the reality of sound, Frustrated Machine perseveres in pushing ideas in craft and structure together to compose itself as a masterpiece that has reinvented the wheel.
For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel, The Reign of Kindo, Chick Corea Elektric Band