The Portland band The Joggers’ debut album, Solid Guild, was released in 2003 to the very open arms of publications like Rolling Stone, Filter, Stop Smiling, the Washington Post and Pitchfork. Extensive touring followed and soon they were sharing the stage with bands like the Hot Hot Heat, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Weird War and the French Kicks. But at the height of this excitement, and partially because of it, they needed time off to recuperate and think things through. For a while their future was unknown, but of course things eventually worked out. Last week they celebrated the release of their new CD, With a Cape and a Cane, at Berbati’s.
It was the first time I’ve seen The Joggers in years, now with new guitarist Dan Wilson replacing Murphy Kasiewicz. The truth is that when you think you have a band figured out, when you’ve seen them enough to anticipate their next performance, you lose a little interest. The danger in this is that you also lose the ability to be surprised, and being surprised can be a very good thing.
The Joggers used to be called Stateside, and I remember laughing when their drummer Jake Morris told me about their new, more athletic moniker, The Joggers. Their music doesn’t evoke images of sweatbands or short shorts, but at the show it struck me for the first time why the name fits.
On stage were four musicians, who after warming up with a few songs really hit stride and kept a quick pace. They even took a well-earned victory lap to conclude the show.
At heart The Joggers are a guitar band with solid oak rhythms and angel hair noodling. Archers of Loaf, one of the greatest bands ever, is constantly a point of my own personal comparison, hopefully that doesn’t piss them off.
Dan Wilson and frontman Benjamin Whitesides both have sense and style enough to stay as far away from power chords as humanly possible. Instead they approach things in a much more single-noted fashion. That’s not to say that it’s easy or even possible to keep up with the hundreds of notes that fall from their fingertips with every noisy measure.
While they can be angsty and reckless in some regards, they can also be sweet and fun-loving in others. The vocal harmonies achieved by all four members would bring praise from the Tabernacle Choir and could win them permission to even date the preacher’s daughter, although Morris would probably want to change out of the cut-offs and tie-dye shirt first. Watching him and bassist Darrell Bourque drop such danceable rhythms was pleasurable and my head nodded in agreement with every satisfying shot.
Yes, surprises are nice and last night The Joggers were like a cupcake with a candle on it. They will be touring like gypsies for the next few months, and then hopefully they can get a little rest.
Be sure to check out With a Cape and a Cane, which Entertainment Weekly calls “one of the 20 most anticipated albums of this fall.” For more information on this lovely local act, check out www.thejoggers.com