Timing Is Everything (Java/Capitol)
by Jamie Kiffel
Cruising musically from malls to urban apartments to a suggested cocktail for suburban stress relief (“Cigarettes, Prozac and Scotch”), Block smartly and sharply provides a soundtrack to the great tack that is America in the 1990s. Jamie Block’s voice is clear and frank, verging on comical for its unenhanced nakedness in the midst of a culture gone mad. That is, it’s a misplaced, funny thing to discover vocal humanity in all this. It is their frankness, in addition to exotically excellent, sitar-enhanced funk, buzz-folk guitar, and cheese-free rap additives, which allows Block to get away with the kind of tangle-tongued lyrics that other bands attempt to sell as mystique. Block, with true folk brazenness, proves unafraid to belt lines like “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.” The trick is that the tunes maintain real rock integrity.
As if to disclaim the weight placed on his lyrics, Block sings, “Think catchy. Okay: rhinoceros.” Theoretically impossible choruses like “The pink house must burn” make such a bopworthy sound that they catch the brain accepting them before goof receptors pick up and reject them. Strange twangs and spacey quivers undermine any seriousness attempted on most tracks. This is the sound of America’s overproduced madness talking back: a recording agent brags that he “used to manage PM Dawn;” the use of writing a song for lost love is evaluated (“Lot of good that’ll do”); I-95 wins its own sentimental ballad. Mainland-ized tropical music with vibraphone and whistles sends up a flare for the comic perfection of the entire capitalist gobstopper. This is the message malfunctioning America has been waiting for: dysfunction made bright, fun, and acceptable. Block has made ade of the corporate lemon. Come drink.