Park Ave.'s only release (and posthumous at that), When Jamie Went to London...We Broke Up, is an endearing document of a five friends with enough presence of mind to lay down the tracks they had written over a two-year stint spent together before their impending breakup, brought on by guitarist/vocalist Jamie Williams' plan to move to London (hence the record's title). The feeling that When Jamie Went to London... was just an aural scrapbook for the members of the band is immediate, but there is an underlying sadness to it as if the band were already rooted in the nostalgia of itself, already mourning the end which had yet to come. Perhaps this is reading into the roots of the emotional feel too much, considering the overdose of moody intentions Conor Oberst would later inject into the popular underground under his Bright Eyes moniker, but there is certainly an element of unrest commingling with the deadpan indie pop naïvety which streaks through the album. Musically, When Jamie Went to London... is engaging throughout, complex enough to note that perhaps Park Ave.'s greatest strength was playing just beyond their means, creating the tension of the possibility it will all come undone at any second, but unlike similarly described bands like the Velvet Underground, Pavement, and the Sex Pistols, Park Ave. never seem to aggressively wrangle it back in, but instead just kind of hang out carelessly on the edge. The biggest downfall of When Jamie Went to London... is that the vocals are often hard to deal with, occasionally being dramatically off-key like a drunken karaoke session. Many bands have been able to sidestep this problem by putting a bit of confidence behind a lousy vocal take, but here almost every instance is unsure. It must be considered, however, that all the members of Park Ave. were very young (late teens/early twenties) when the recording was made, and that still, the overall combination is not dragged down by this setback because, and precisely because, of its forthright sincerity. In fact, it's admirable what they made: a home-recorded album where the songwriting is toiled over, but without any pretense, and certainly without intentions of being critically dissected by anyone but their friends. Because this comes across so strongly, the album remains charming and lovable in spite of any flaws and holds ground as a true folk album in the sense that its purpose was nothing more than entertainment for the five group members involved in its creation.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh