Johnny Society

It Don't Matter

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It is impossible not to get excited upon hearing the grandiose, swaggering debut album from Johnny Society. Brash, full of bold colors, and bounding with musical ideas, It Don't Matter hits with the sonic force of a tidal wave, or to use a more appropriate analogy, like a one-band, end-of-the-20th-century rock & roll beacon the likes of which hasn't been experienced since the Beatles. From the outset, it instantly feels like you are listening to one of those bands that was born fully formed and brilliant, with all its influences so masterfully woven into its own musical agenda that the music feels like an entirely new world unto itself, eclectic and insatiably ambitious. If you listen intently, the influences are discernible, from mid-period Beatles and psychedelia to the sparkle-and-strut of prime cut glam rock and later Move. Instead of copying the hallmarks of those watershed styles, though, Johnny Society borrows the spirit inherent in the various musical guideposts and twists them into its own extraordinarily singular sound. All influences aside, the band could not have existed before its time. The album has the messy aggression of the millennial cut-and-paste, post-modern aesthetic, albeit without proscribing to tricks such as sampling. The modern scope of the band is instead evident in the wonderfully cluttered arrangements and dynamic song structures, which handle all sorts of tripped-out instrumentation and effects. Some of those effects are throwbacks (funereal mellotron and swanky T-Rex guitar riffs on "Loving Witch," the Abbey Road ambience of "I'm Sorry"), some are exotic (Middle Eastern chord progressions, harpsichord, electric sitar on "My Saviour," the album's centerpiece), and some are more updated (muted ska horns, creep-show organ, and Brian Geltner's trash-can drums). But they all careen and carom through Kenny Siegal songs to create a glorious racket. Siegal is the obvious brainchild of the band. His idiosyncratic songwriting on the album is recognizably pop and rock, but it shows a skewed grasp of melody that makes even the most straight-ahead songs seem warped, a musical room of fun house mirrors contorting melodies into unrecognizable hooks. And he has one of those glorious rock-star voices that grabs your ear with two hands, as startlingly rangy as Chris Cornell's or, on the more raucous cuts, a spot-on approximation of Roy Wood. Not everything on the album finds what it is reaching for, and the production can occasionally till the same ground, but the epic quality of the reach itself is dazzling. To consider that It Don't Matter is only a first effort is a staggering realization to make.