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Review Of SSQ - Jet Town Je t’aime

PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:31 pm
by NuWavo80s
Someone drinking the Kool-aid wrote this review on Discogs.

iamlovetoo January 2, 2020
edited about 9 hours ago

SSQ is the original group in which Stacey Q got her start back in the early ‘80s, a few years before her signature tune, “Two of Hearts” (1986) made Stacey Q a household name at the time. Stacey was the frontwoman of SSQ, but the mastermind behind the group was producer extraordinaire, Jon St. James. SSQ managed to squeeze out a couple club hits with “Synthicide” and “Big Electronic Beat” and their album “Playback” (1983) became something of an underground, synth-pop/new wave classic, but the group soon faded away into oblivion. Or did they?

By 1985, SSQ switched direction. As Stacey was the focus and image of the group anyhow, they decided to promote her as a solo artist, but the original group stayed together, playing on and producing her first two solo albums “Better than Heaven” (1986) and “Hard Machine” (1988), both of which saw Stacey come into her own as a songwriter. Although the band members of SSQ separated before recording Stacey Q’s third solo album, “Nights Like This” (1989), Jon St. James stayed on board to produce and co-write half of that set. Jon would reunite with Stacey some 20 years later to record Stacey’s fifth solo outing, “Color Me Cinnamon” (2010). In the interim, the ‘90s were quieter for Miss Q. In addition to studying transcendental meditation with Buddhist monks in Tibet, she released a single “Two Hot For Love” (1993), a greatest hits package in 1995 (which also featured unreleased material and new mixes of SSQ songs). In 1997 Stacey Q released her fourth studio album “Boomerang”, which was a departure from her standard sound. The hi-NRG pop princess disappeared, revealing a more mature, natural, folk-rock inspired feeling. “Color Me Cinnamon” (2010) was a return to form and embraced by fans of her work with Jon St. James.

The latest SSQ effort, “Jet Town Je t’aime” (2020) features a little bit of what you know and love and expect from Stacey Q on tracks like “Dance Love Pray” and “AirPods On”, which is something of a part 2 of SSQ’s 1983 track “Walkman On”. But that’s where what you’re expecting ends. The SSQ of 2020 has many different musical ideas in mind and complete creative control. They introduce these ideas cleverly with the order in which the tracks appear. The opening number, “Trippin’ Me Out” is a warm, sensual, mid-tempo, funky vibe with a dreamy quality. Auto-tune is used for effect to convey the psychedelic nature of the lyrics, as Stacey coos, “baby when you puzzle me, it’s like dropping LSD/You’re a flight to Neverland, with a stop in Amsterdam”. The album explores many different vocal textures from Stacey. While one track might be sweetened like Georgia honey tea, the next may feature Stacey completely raw and unfettered. Time seems to have given her voice more depth and character and she sounds better than ever on this album.

Many types of music are explored on “Jet Town Je t’aime”. While “AirPods On” gives you an idea of what SSQ would sound like if they followed the classic blueprint, they don’t spend much time lingering in the past on this set. The next track “Surrender to the Groove” brings you completely up-to-date with a slithery trap-pop drum track that slides into an exotic middle eastern vibe made for now. The introduction of muted metal guitars in the background of this new sound prepare the listener for the changes the album takes on the title track “Jet Town Je t’aime”. This is another continuation or “part 2” of a classic SSQ track from ’83, ‘Jet Town’. The new track is completely reconstructed into a guitar driven, shoegaze inspired groove with Stacey sing-speaking, without any vocal effects. Jon St. James even makes a rare vocal appearance in a duet with Stacey on this track and adding vocal effects elsewhere on the album. It’s really unfair to compare the original Jet Town from nearly 40 years ago to this new song, but I must concede the song ‘Jet Town Je t’aime’ is a masterpiece. Slowing things down to a ballad vibe, SSQ serves up “Stupid Things” and “Fade with You” more guitar oriented, shoegaze sounds and poignant lyrics.

While the first half of “Jet Town Je t’aime” is excellent and masterfully crafted, SSQ saved the best gems for the second half of the set. “Land of Snow” is a dreamy affair that is about as close to an R&B slowjam as you will ever get from SSQ, with Stacey singing lyrics from a So-Cal girl longing to take vacation to a snowy destination, which seems a rather fitting vibe for those of us living in colder climes this wintry season. In fact, “Jet Town Je t’aime” shows influence of music from all over the world. While “Surrender to the Groove” showcases middle-eastern elements, “I Saw Brigitte Bardot” gives you a Bossa Nova flavor, complete with a jazzy sax solo. Just as SSQ gave a nod to St. James’ French heritage with “N’Importe Quoi” (1983), they do same with a mellow acid jazz number, “Two Weeks in Paris”. I especially love the upright bass and rhythm guitar solo here, serving us a little hint of Nile Rodgers influence. The album takes a darker tone with the contemplative “Bad in Every Man”, and the cynical “Ghosts of 66” to wrap things up. The album builds up to these final two songs as the crest of the set. “Ghosts of 66” stretches out like a rather trippy ‘70s classic rock epic, giving hints of David Bowie and another set of lyrics reflecting on the state of things today.

Jon St. James has a knack for bringing out the very best in Stacey Q, and vice-versa. Although I enjoy St. James’ productions with other artists, Stacey writes great lyrics for Jon to work with. Although they have plenty fun with technological wizardry throughout the set, there are plenty of organic moments, with raw, natural vocals, live drum kits, and acoustic guitars. Although this was attempted with “Boomerang” (1997), SSQ succeeds because there is a lot more happening here. While “Boomerang” was very cohesive, “Jet Town Je t’aime” zig-zags across many genres and offers up a well-conceived and flawlessly executed musical adventure. In a fair world, songs like “Dance Love Pray” and “Trippin’ Me Out” would get the full remix package treatment with top-shelf DJs and land SSQ a major Billboard club hit. However, for what it is, “Jet Town Je t’aime” is a hit on its own merit. This was a labor of love, and feels like the album Jon and Stacey have always wanted to record. I’m so glad to hear the results of their collaboration at this stage in life when they have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. “Jet Town Je t’aime” is a tour de force and stands as the best music ever produced by Jon St. James and sung by Stacey Q.