Album Review: “You Won’t Like the Answer” by Buggy Jive
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of checking out Buggy Jive’s latest work, You Won’t Like the Answer, and I have to tell you: there’s a lot going on in this record. Buggy Jive seamlessly blends tons of lyrical and musical influences in an interesting way, yet manages to never stray into sounding contrived. The opening track, “He Lost His Mind to Find His Heart,” serves its purpose quite well as an album-opener. The song contains a captivating groove while also blending idiomatic language with prose to give a unique sense of push and pull. This dichotomy between simple and complex pervades the entire album, and while it normally would sound like an artist didn’t know what direction they want to go in, Buggy Jive seems to do this so effortlessly that it comes off as a strong positive rather than a lack of focus.
A fascinating example of this concept is in the song “Memento Mori,” where Buggy Jive sings, “I’ve been tryna rise on up to glory/Alighieri Allegory.” I must admit this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Dante’s Divine Comedy being referenced in music! It immediately caught my ear in a refreshing way. He later references the same text in the song when he sings, “I’ve been tryna rise on up to glory/Leaving Virgil’s dead ass in Purgatory” (Interestingly enough, the artwork for this album is based on a William Blake illustration of said text). One of the most prevalent thematic elements to this album is the topic of race relations and a call against the hypocrisy in folks that parade themselves as being “woke,” toward the cause. Despite the weight of the subject material, Buggy Jive presents it in a very understandable and digestible way. Songs like “No Absolution,” and “Tiptoes” I feel are very worthy of an extremely close listen
The fourth song, “Keep On Grinding,” is my favorite track on the record, and firmly introduces the overarching idea of persistence in spite of being mentally exhausted and fed up. The groove with which the song moves along to works as an excellent delivery system of such an unfortunate – but extremely pertinent – message. To this listener, it seems that the more this motif of “keep on grinding” appears throughout the album, namely in songs such as “I Done Toldt Y’all,” (track 7) and “The Worst of Us,” (track 10), the less optimistic the words sound; replacing the feeling with a sort of perfunctory nature. By doing so, Buggy Jive is able to convey the struggle behind his convictions and how he is able to deal with them. While the album is full of textured grooves and a back-and-forth dialogue within the rhythm section, there’s also a really nice change of pace in music with the title track, “You Won’t Like the Answer.” Never straying too far from the groove-centric feel of this album, Buggy Jive does return to this style of music toward the middle of the song, but nicely ends the piece by slowing down once more.
Although there weren’t any songs on this album that I disliked, “She Screams in Metaphor” felt like a stranger to the album in terms of feel, and overall tone of the track. Despite it being enjoyable to listen to, I felt it did nothing to further the thematic development of the album that is otherwise so well built upon throughout listening. A quick perusal of the liner notes showed this track was written in 1997, which would explain why it felt foreign with the other music. I’m not by any means disparaging the song, just stating from this listener’s point-of-view that this could have easily been left off the record.
As the final track “Ain’t Going Anywhere,” concluded, I chuckled to myself out of sheer musical awe. Out of nowhere, Buggy Jive incorporates another musician into the fold – Joni Mitchell! Of all the references I could have guessed, Joni never would have been one, and I found it instantly grabbing my ear when the next-to-last stanza of the album was actually a very mini-cover of Joni’s “Both Sides Now.” The way Buggy Jive incorporates the lyric “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now/from up and down and still somehow/it’s cloud’s illusions I recall,” to make a final impression of his drained energy and diminished optimism is quite effective.
Blending a myriad of genres can be quite difficult. Blending genres and lyrical content that range from racial tensions to religious concepts (but never in an overtly preaching manner), to high level prose juxtaposed with idiomatic language is a feat in and of itself. Not to mention, the only instruments Buggy Jive isn’t performing on this album are drums and percussion. It was such an interesting musical journey listening to this album, and I highly recommend those looking for something new and unique to give this record a try. I encourage you to listen through it and try to get something out of this work. I sure as hell did.