Swiss garage-rock trio, The Jackets, deliver their fourth full-length album, Queen of the Pill. Having received acclaim from legends like Alice Cooper and Los Angeles DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, the band has plenty of hype to justify with this release. With three previous albums and European and North American tours under their belt, the band is poised to make more noise throughout the underground with a sound that is pure rock n’ roll, stained by punk and psychedelia.
Singer/guitarist Jackie Brutsche, bassist Samuel Schmidiger, and drummer Chris Rosales form a tight unit that never overextends themselves individually, but comes together in perfect doses of restraint and overdrive. Brutsche delivers fuzzed-out guitar leads on tracks like “What About You,” “Move On,” and the title-track, and clean, almost surf-guitar leads on “Steam Queen” and “Don’t Leave Me Alone.” Schmidiger serves up some particularly thick bass lines on the title-track and “What About You,” while Rosales rests firmly in the pocket and/or delivers some rollicking, dance-y beats throughout. A number of tracks sound like they’re inspired by the proto-punk of the Sonics or the Stooges (“Dreamer,” “Loser’s Lullaby”), while others reach back further in rock history, mining an almost 60’s vibe (“Steam Queen”). The garage rock moniker aptly fits when considering the fuzzy guitars heard on “What About You,” “Move On,” and “Be Myself,” but proving they’re no one dimensional band, “Floating Alice” slows things down with a trippy, middle-eastern sounding slow dance. Throughout, the band shows they have sharp pop-sensibilities. Tracks like “What About You” and “Loser’s Lullaby” are quite catchy and the backing harmonies on “Move On,” “Dreamer,” and “Deeper Way” show the band owes as much to the Beach Boy’s as the MC5.
Simply put, Queen of the Pill is a fun album. But, if you stick with it long enough to peel back the layers, you’ll discover there’s more to the songs than the buzzing guitars and charming vocals and backing harmonies. Such as the deceptively titled “Be Myself,” where Brutsche sings “I don’t wanna be myself, I don’t wanna be myself.” There’s a nice tug of war between confident and vulnerable that gives these 10 songs more substance than you might glean on the first listen. While there’s a certain darkness to some of the songs, dawn remains on the horizon.
Queen of the Pill is recommended to all who call themselves “punk” or for those who relish unsullied rock n’ roll. Clearly, the band know’s its history and that knowledge comes through in spades on this inspired collection of songs.
– J. Kevin Lynch