At this point, people expect nothing less than pop rock perfection from The Jigsaw Seen, and the guys deliver it better than ever on their new album Old Man Reverb. RUST Magazine has been covering The Jigsaw Seen since before we even were a magazine, and our interview with guitarist Jonathan Lea was one of our very first articles. Since then, the band has been on a creative binge, releasing immaculately crafted and produced albums like Winterland and Gifted, interspersed with dates touring as the band for Dave Davies of The Kinks.
Perennial critical darlings, The Jigsaw Seen explores a post-Beatles vibe and habitually masters their albums at Abbey Road studios, this time with Sean Magee. Everything this band does, it does well, and with a signature integrity. This extends to the packaging and design for the albums – which they’ve been Grammy-nominated for their album Zenith – and on Old Man Reverb, the cover art and inserts are based on some of the elements of a Fender “silverface” amplifier including the faceplate, volume knob, speaker, footswitch and tube chart.
We received a cd copy of Old Man Reverb here to review, but we’ve been paying attention to the album construction process on the band’s facebook page and the vinyl version of Old Man Reverb looks like an amazing package. All of The Jigsaw Seen’s albums are specially packaged, and one of the most unique touches along the way has been the snow flakes that came with Winterland. The cd packaging of Old Man Reverb is similarly unique and well done with a metallic base and transparent teal ink on the exterior and three different inserts emphasizing style and concept.
Packaging aside, what The Jigsaw Seen delivers on all of their albums is some the best rock music ever made. They have been at it for well over 20 years as a group and they have self-sustained because of the merits of their work. Their music is a master class on song construction, style and technique. The band is also really good about posting online about what they’re doing, so we’ve been watching this project as it has developed, and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of work and effort go into it. This group of artists always puts in maximum effort, and their work ethic equals their compositional excellence.
The Jigsaw Seen has been collecting die-hard fans and getting international exposure, especially from their last few albums including 2010’s Bananas Foster, and they’re getting about a quarter million streams a month, so Old Man Reverb is being released to an expectant fan base. Hopefully this will be the album that breaks The Jigsaw Seen out and onto the international stages they deserve. Really there are just two types of people when it come to The Jigsaw Seen, band fanatics and people who have not heard them yet.
Old Man Reverb is a very special album in that The Jigsaw Seen has never been better, more focused or has made music with such clarity of vision. They’re legitimately legends, and this new album only adds to their long list of accomplishments. What makes this album even more interesting is the recent series of releases from the band, which have all been excellent. They just keep getting better and better with each new release, and they were already one of the best… ever. Essential.
RUST Magazine was so interested in what guitarist Jonathan Lea had to say about the tracks on the album that we reached out to him to tell us a little about each one, where it came from, and what it took to make it through the creative process to Old Man Reverb, Here’s what he had to say:
Let There Be Reverb – With this album, we decided to go back and record some songs that we’d played live over the years but had never recorded and released. This song is the exception, written by Dennis recently to tie in with the album’s title, it was recorded in Los Angeles on a day off during Dave Davies’ tour last Summer. This track features some great Rod Argent-style organ playing by Morley Bartnoff on the outro.
Idiots With Guitars – This is one of my favorites, with its “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” meets “Baby Blue” feel. We’ve played this one for the past 15 years and we’ve actually opened shows with it. Great lyrics dedicated to some of our “friends” on the LA music scene.
Die Laughing – This and the following song are from the same era, mid-1990’s. For this we tried to imagine The Who being produced by Phil Spector (without the victims.) The track features some great Abba-esque piano by Tom and “Mr. Blue Sky” himself, Dennis on Vocoder.
Understand – Like the previous track, this features a great performance by our rhythm section, Tom and Teddy. Dennis added a lot of great harmony vocals to this one while I played the guitar solo using a Uni-Vibe pedal, made famous by Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour.
We Women – This is our third attempt at this one and I think we finally got it. Recorded live in the studio without me, I added the guitars and piano later. Previously recorded in 1993, 2003 and 2013, maybe we’ll tackle it again in 2023 (a doo-wop arrangement?)
Madame Whirligig – This and the following track were demoed by Dennis and me for “Bananas Foster” and the two songs were originally connected. Dennis played the swirly phased guitar while I played the bass and also an E-bow guitar recorded through a Leslie cabinet.
Hercules And Sylvia – Similar in feel to the previous track, this one also features a great string arrangement by Dennis. Me on bass (again) and “Hello Hooray”-influenced harmony guitars.
Your Mind Is Like Mine – I originally recorded electric 12-string guitars for this but thought it sounded too “British Invasion” so I replaced them with acoustic guitars. Another “oldie,” Dennis and I performed this song on the BBC in 2001.
Abide – The oldest song on the album, actually one of the first songs we played when Dennis and I met in the 1980’s (I guess we were in no hurry to record it.) Influenced by Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks, I play baritone guitar on this.
Grief Rehearsal – The other relatively new song on the album, this one was influenced by Jimmy Webb and Gene Clark. Pretty laid back for us, with Dennis on Chamberlin strings, me on tremelo guitar (and more baritone), Tom on bass and Teddy (under duress) on brushes.
Thanks Jon. People can check out the band here: http://www.thejigsawseen.com/