Jaaw - Thoughts and Prayers. The cover is a colourful primary colour abstract of shapes that form skulls.

Supercluster LP

Buzzing like an angry wasp, ‘Thoughts and Prayers (Mean Nothing)’ is a wire-sharp introduction to JAAW. The band is an alternative rock supergroup, with Adam Betts (Three Trapped Tigers, Goldie, Squarepusher), Andy Cairns (Therapy?), Jason Stoll (Mugstar, KLÄMP, Sex Swing), and Wayne Adams (Death Pedals, Big Lad, Petbrick) combining to create a chaotically beautiful sound.

The song really ramps it up as it approaches the finale, the noise getting more intense until that final incantation of the guitar motif.

We’re immediately into a big drum intro with feedback squeals and thick chugging bass. It’s the sonic drive of ‘Reality Crash’. This song differs from the wiry opener, opting for a substantial and unstoppable march. One thing it shares is the sense of building intensity. This song has a doomy edge that makes it darker than ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.

‘Rot’ has an industrial feel, the big chords sounding like a dystopian machine. The distorted tone phases between bass-heavy and top-end squeeze and the vocal is low and threatening in the verse, shifting up the scales for the chorus.

There’s a long ambient introduction to ‘Total Protonic Reversal’, the notes fading in with cinematic dynamics. The bass and drums start to bring structure at the one-minute mark. This is like a superbly angry set opener for The Cure.

‘Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry’ fuzzes dangerously before exploding with wide-open hi-hat and big chords. The vocals spit like hot oil, and then slide into a menacing chorus. The song grows bigger and bigger, forming a wall of noise and then letting it all drop back down just to start the process again. It’s wall-of-water immense. The outro is an epic soundbed that gradually fades to silence.

Then it’s the urgent thrash of ‘Hellbent on Happiness’; a swirling chaos of overdriven vocals and distorted guitars. The post-choral riffery is fully industrial and this takes me back to the mid-nineties local Goth club scene.

The bass gets to drive things alongside the drums in ‘The Dead Drop’, with some subtle harmonic sparkles developing at the edges of the guitars. At the halfway mark it morphs in an interesting rhythmic direction alongside a melodic chant.

‘Army of Me’ closes the album with tripwire-guitar pedalling over a great riff. The chorus is percussive and the guitars nudge into the sound with an unusual kind of fade effect. The same elements are used in the second verse, but it sounds entirely different – as it does the third time around. Either the switch from the chorus transforms it, or it’s being treated in a new way. In any case, the song is huge.

From a production perspective – and I add this knowing that this really isn’t the point of the record – it’s stunning how clear this sounds with so much heaviness and noise. There are a thousand guitars crashing together in here, and you can hear every single one. Each metallic wail, every fizzling distorted note. Whoever mixed this is a magician, as it’s like listening to an orchestra.

The band’s name, JAAW, is ABBA-esque, representing the initials of Jason, Andy, Adam, and Wayne. Don’t expect any seventies Eurovision pop sounds on this record, though. Expect something more like industrial, metal, and punk, infused with moments that hint at Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Throat, The Cure, Ministry, Jawbreaker, and the respective musical homes of each of the band members.

This record was assembled over the course of a few days in a London studio. This brings a visceral energy to the songs. It’s like they captured the urgency and freshness of the process. The record feels complex, electrified, and exciting.

Listen to JAAW – ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.

Written by Fenton on

Steve Fenton writes in our music, words, and culture categories. He was Editor in Chief for The Mag and covered live music for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues throughout the UK alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve is also a technical writer and programmer and writes gothic fiction. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.

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