Jeremy Dubs

REVIEW: Jeremy Dubs - The Words

Musically, Jeremy Dubs’ second album, The Words, doesn’t stray far from the formula that made his debut, Speak!, such a wonderful, mind-bending chunk of prog rock. The sparse, electronic soundscapes are still there on his sophomore effort for The Bureau Records (Black Francis’ Western Massachusetts-based label), as is his truly unique somewhere-between-Frank-Oz-and-Geddy-Lee-voice.

The key difference is the lack of reliance on Harry Nilsson. Whereas Speak! served as a back-and-forth conversation between Dubs and Nilsson, covering several of his songs and adding a few originals that cited Nilsson as an inspiration, Dubs wrote more than half of the songs on the new album. But fear not – Dubs adds two more fantastic Nilsson covers to the new record. First up is Sailin’, in which Dubs harmonizes perfectly first with himself, then with vocalist/cellist Vanessa Zaehring. The song floats along beautifully on a sparse electronic background before ending on a bit of a chaotic note, implying the sailing is not as smooth as the song would imply. The other Nilsson cover, “Point of View Waltz,” might be more familiar to folks of a certain age who remember the surreal, Yellow Submarine-esque 1971 film The Point. Dubs, who normally tones down Nilsson’s songs, instead adds some drums to the short tune, making it the peppiest song on the record. (The lack of drums on the record is somewhat surprising, given Dubs’ occasional turn as Black Francis’ drummer.)

Dubs covers three more songs on The Words. The first is “Love in Outer Space,” originally done by Sun Ra. (Let’s hope Dubs doesn’t try to cover as much Sun Ra as he has Harry Nilsson – Sun Ra recorded more than 100 albums in his astonishingly prolific career). Dubs adds his trademark Realistic Concertmate synth but stays relatively true to the jazzy original.  (It’s also easy to see the influence that the artwork of Sun Ra’s record had on Dubs’.) Dubs then takes on Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “New World Coming” – not the duo’s best known song (that would be – by far - “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling) but a great one in the right hands. Dubs strips the song down about as much as possible, using a simple, plinking keyboard and sleigh bell, but lays on numerous overdubbed vocals which shimmer radiantly.

LIVE: Jeremy Dubs @ Galaxy Hut - 11/12/12

Galaxy Hut was an appropriately named venue for the two space-age bands from Northampton, Massachusetts that played there last Monday. Jeremy Dubs Presents and Home Body each brought their own brand of ethereal electronic music to the Arlington bar, and illustrated why the two up-and-coming bands are turning heads and ears on their current east coast swing.

Jeremy Dubs was up first. Dubs has had a unique musical career which has seen him release albums of sci-fi music with his band the Bunnies, open for Frank Black and the Pixies as a member of the Bennies (sensing a theme?), and most recently releasing a tribute record of sorts to Harry Nilsson on Black Francis’ The Bureau Records. A follow up, Words, will be released early next year.

TO DO LIST: Jeremy Dubs @ Galaxy Hut TONIGHT!!!

“Go inside your dream world…it’s a lot like here except not here.”

So sings Northampton, Massachusetts’ Jeremy Dubs on “The Worlds” (hear it below) from his forthcoming album Words. It’s a wonderful track, a dream world unto itself, as if They Might Be Giants and Wall of Voodoo had a child who staged a Broadway musical. “The Worlds” is a fantastic introduction to Dubs’ music, and his personal story is worth telling as well as it’s the stuff of most music fans’ dreams.

In 2000, Dubs was in a band called the Bennies. He contacted Pixies front man Black Francis (who was then playing solo) to see if the Bennies might secure a gig opening for him. Francis was so taken with the young musician that he gave the Bennies numerous opening gigs (including one at our very own 9:30 Club) and even allowed them to open a few shows for the reunited Pixies.

Dubs was subsequently signed to Francis’ new record label, The Bureau Records, and released Speak!, a sorta kinda Harry Nilsson tribute album which features Nilsson originals, songs Nilsson covered, and Dubs originals that were inspired by Nilsson. The end result is a beautiful, pulsating collection of 8-bit analog synth songs that despite their simplicity are alternately playful and heart wrenching. Dubs displays a masterful ability to lay track upon track of his own unique voice (probably can’t be helped when your name is Dubs) which, when paired with the spare electronic music makes for something truly unique.

Watching Dubs bring this creation to life with his band is a pretty amazing experience. And with a new album on the horizon, Monday night’s show at Galaxy Hut will be a memorable one.

Kicking off the show is Home Body, another Northampton export (and no relation to the Capitol Hill furniture store of the same name). The electronic duo plays haunting electronica that calls to mind the Knife and Portishead.

Galaxy Hut doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a music venue, but the fun Clarendon bar features some great shows on Sunday and Monday nights - normally not big live music nights in DC. Get your introduction to Galaxy Hut and two great bands tonight.