Cloud Eleven


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As the title cleverly intimates, there is a very demo-like quality to Jiffipop's Demolicious. That may be because they are in fact demos by one-man band Rick Gallego, and he pressed the CD to interest prospective record labels or band members in his music. Regardless of the genesis of the album, it is an unqualified work graced by stellar songwriting. For song after song, Gallego writes flawlessly crafted pop/rock melody after pop/rock melody. The songs may not have characteristic production sheen, but nothing can obscure the quality of the tunes, and the album ends up sounding like a collection of forgotten, diamond-in-the-rough 45s from an era that is difficult to pinpoint. Many of the touchstones -- the song structures, textured vocals, the moody lope, and guitar tones -- are straight from the groovy sixties era without exactly sounding in these incarnations like they come directly from that era. A Revolver-era guitar line initiates the album's opening song, "Fall Through You," like an immediately identifiable calling card, but the song itself ultimately turns out to be more Zombies than Beatles, right down to the vocal sighs. The buoyant harmonies throughout the album, on the other hand, are more grounded in the seventies aesthetic. Gallego never really settles in any one period for his sonic influences (despite what covers of Harry Nilsson and the Beach Boys might imply), though, nor does he ever mimic any particular band or artist, which only serves to make his songs more individual. "Flying," as one example, has the sophisticated jazz pacing of Steely Dan, but with harmonies that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen rarely attempted, while "Firecracker Bloom" comes off like kaleidoscopically inclined Everly Brothers. Some of the songs -- "Mariposa," "Flying," and the Lennonesque light-psych cover of Nilsson's "Mornin' Glory Story," -- do not call for any additions because they already sound complete, and wonderfully so. Some of the others, such as "Fade," are already compositionally charming, but one potential step from sparkling. In a few instances, a song lacks that instantly catchy hallmark and hook and would certainly benefit from a fuller sound or fleshed-out melodic ideas or the kick of a real band. It is a warts-and-all album to be sure, but even the blemishes are fascinating to hear, like reading a notebook of sketches. And Jiffipop served at least one of its primary purposes. The solo project metamorphosed into a full band for Gallego, Cloud Eleven. A couple years later the band released its first considerably more-polished debut, which garnered ecstatically positive reviews and various mentions as one of the finest pop albums of the year. Aside from the lack of production polish, all the same qualities are in abundant evidence on Demolicious. In fact, the more the songs are played, the more they shine through their roughed-up surfaces, and the luster is often rather incandescent.