With no sign of taking it easy just yet, Stephen Jones continues the familiar pattern of the last two albums under the Babybird name where – far from Jones being increasingly inward – his music sounds as geared towards the pop market as at any other time. There’s even room for Johnny Depp to make a guest appearance.
The only blip to this apparent conformance is, of course, the lyrics, which are as uniformly warped as ever. Not many artists could craft a song called ‘Drugtime’ and make it sound almost nursery-rhyme like in its simplicity. On a solid and consistently good record, ‘Failed Suicide Club’ and ‘For The Rest Of Our Lives’ certainly rank amongst Jones’ mid-90s peak period and ‘Bastard’ boasts a muscular rhythm to match its “in your face” title.
It is in fact the Depp-guesting ‘Unloveable’ that is the most enduring moment on the record and although the actor’s guitar is largely perfunctory, it can’t hide a lovely song which builds quietly in to a rousing anthem. Continuing the quality, ‘Black Flowers’ is one of those touching ballads which tends to get sneaked in once in a while and is the first of a trio of lovelorn tracks which finalise ‘Ex-Maniac’.
Granted, Jones is perhaps no longer the underground hero he was during the 1990’s and the music (if not the lyrics) has certainly been smoothed over since those times. Yet ‘Ex-Maniac’ is, in many ways, exactly the kind of record a forty-seven year old man should be making; relying on the artist’s trademarks but still more than capable of writing fine songs.
Eels, Pony Club, Stephen Jones, Death Of The Neighbourhood