Feelings has risen up like a phoenix out of the ashes of Philadelphia Grand Jury. The project was originally supposed to be the solo debut from The Philly Jays front man, Berkfinger (AKA Simon Berckelman). But emotions, relationships and indeed, feelings are quite complex things. So for some songs Berkfinger was joined by his old bandmates, MC Bad Genius (Joel Beeson) and Dan W Sweat (Dan Williams) along with other Aussie contemporaries like: Dave Rennick (Dappled Cities) and Michael Tomlinson (ex-Yves Klein Blue).
Be Kind, Unwind features 11 songs that clock in at just 27 minutes. And like Philadelphia Grand Jury’s work, it shows that Berkfinger stills has both a penchant and a craft for creating good, toe-tapping tunes. Berckelman has served as the producer here and this record is brimming with both creativity and ideas. At times it is like listening to an old jukebox or radio. It may also leave you scratching you head and wondering how this guy has managed to fit more hooks into it than a storeroom.
The fans looking for a complete sequel to Hope Is For The Hopeless will inevitably be disappointed. Because while this album uses rock ‘n’ roll, punk, garage rock and eighties pop as touch points, it is also a different beast. It is one that is more focused on maintaining a pretty pop sensibility than the snarling angst and attitude that typified the trio’s debut. But that said, this record is still energetic and light-hearted fun that would make you want to party, party.
“Square” was written by Berckelman and Beeson and boasts a real groove and blues-pop sound. The added saxophone also adds an additional twist before things are taken back to the more expected fuzzy guitars a là Straight Arrows in “One In A Million”. In the latter, Berkfinger shows off a newly-found falsetto as he pines for his girl.
Berkfinger’s different vocal delivery works best in “Intercourse” where he is also found doing his best Prince impersonation. The tune features its fair share of dance-pop moments loaded with sex, passion and lust and the high-pitched singing sounds an awful lot like the purple king. You probably could substitute this song for “Kiss” in the film, Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts sings in the bathtub- it would work! Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the woeful, “Good Juju In My Medicine”. This song sits somewhere between a forgotten part of the 80s and the John Steel Singers’ “Rainbow Kraut” but it is the lyrics that are the big letdown when you consider:
“I’ve got good juju in my medicine/You’re the holiest of holies but you’re never right, alright”.
Things do pick up, however, with the rock of “New York Summer”. There is also the slacker ballad filled with jangle, “Bring On The Night”. One thing is for certain, this album does take in a few different genres but it is linked by the fact that it seeks to provide a rollicking, good time by its end. It is overall, one fun and expansive adventure through time and sound.
In writing Be Kind, Unwind, Berkfinger said he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and retain more freedom. He has certainly achieved this by mining his record collection to create one extensive sound. But what does let him down is the lack of standout tracks that made Hope Is For The Hopeless so popular. In short, this one is cleaner and more polished but there will be many fans who will prefer to party on and get dirty with The Philly Jays’ first.
Originally published on 20 January 2014 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/18202/be-kind-unwind
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