Friday, July 25, 2014

The Judybats

If you love The Ocean Blue, you might like  The Judybats.  Although considered to be Ocean Blue light, unlike said band, The J Bats came from Knoxville Tennessee (a strange place to be if you're an alternative rock band)  and made four spotty albums for Sire/Warner Brothers. Led by Jeff  Heiskell, he wrote quirky songs in the grand style of Morrissey from The Smiths, and like that lead singer, Jeff would come out of the closet and proclaiming himself to be gay. 

What strikes me is how uneven Native Son is, starts out great on side 1 but by side two rolls around they're spinning their tires and getting nowhere.  Their cover of She Lives In A Time Of Her Own is perhaps the best song on this album. After Incognito, the rest of the album is just plain forgettable. The followup album with the mouth full title of Down In The Shacks Where The Satellites  Dishes Grow is their best overall album, to which they finally get their Smiths and REM influences down to a listenable level. She's Sad She Said worthy of a Morrissey type of song and the humor of Margot Known As Missy makes it their best overall song.

But losing Peggy Hambright after that album, The Judybats lost their soul.  Peg simply got tired of hanging with the band and later opened up a successful bakery in Tennessee.  The band trudged on. With Pain Makes You Beautiful, they settled for Kevin Moloney (The Ocean Blue) as main producer but the sound he delivered on that effort was too slick for the songs at hand.  Not that the songs mattered that much, the alternative adult sound The J Bats strive for didn't work to their advantage.  As for the results, this type of faceless pop was a few years earlier than the Verve Pipe which made better albums or Dog's Eye View which was worse. However they did get a number 7 hit on the alternative charts with Being Simple and the record had a couple other decent songs (Ugly On The Outside, All Day Afternoon) but still, like Native Son, the record is too erratic for the casual listener.

 Full Empty was the end, to which The J Bats lost their identity, and did a pointless cover of the Bee Gees Jive Talkin.  They didn't make a good jam band either and Paul Mahern was as clueless as a producer as well.  The comparison is Dave Matthews Band and that's all you need to know how bad this record is.Sorry Counts reminds me of Better Than Ezra's Good, to which was a better song.  Full Empty when you compare this to Native Son that the Judy Bats did go full circle and like the title suggest became full empty of no memorable songs.  It didn't help that their label with giving them fits either.  Even Jeff Heiskell sounds bored singing.  After that, The Judybats broke up.

Even in their heyday The J Bats seemed to be dated with their type of alt folk rock made even more outdated by Nirvana and the Seattle music scene.  Their Sire output really shows the rise and fall in each of their albums and each band member alternating the sound From Native Son down to the all done Full Empty. They're probably in need of a good overall best of but since it's not cost effective from the Rhino folks in charge of reissuing the Sire albums, you're better off making a mix cd from all four albums that you can find very cheap at local thrift stores or Amazon.  But if you think about it, their second album is their best of, the rest are just curio listens at best and at worst something better not heard from. Although Native Son would have made a nifty EP had they left it at six songs rather than the full 12 song album...Which would have worked better had they named that one Full Empty instead of their last album.

Discography (The Sire Years)

Native Son (Sire 1991, later reissued by Wounded Bird)  B
Down In The Sticks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow (Sire 1992) A-
Pain Makes You Beautiful (Sire 1993) B-
Full Empty (Sire 1994) C-

If you're still interested in learning more about The Judy Bats:

The Trouser Press Guide to JudyBats:

No comments:

Post a Comment