CD Review

Jessica's Crime - "Psychosemantic"

By Marcus Pan

PsychosemanticComing loudly and aggressively out of Dallas, Texas is the gothic rock group that self-describes themselves as "Rock n Roll Terrorism." Borrowing heavily from the older crossover style and boosted by an ancient Egyptian look and feel with their hieroglyphic art adorning the CD and website, Jessica's Crime is held together by key members Aaron Bishop (guitar, vocals, programming) and David Hellstrom (guitar, backing vocals). They've since added Cliff (bass) to round out the dual guitars, but he has a tendency to pop in and out at various random intervals. Psychosemantic has a storybook feel to some of the tracks, similar to what the old UK metal bands did with their "theme albums" back in the mid-80's. The whole album isn't like this, by far, but their lyrics and music tend towards the more "I've got a story to tell" vein with a lot of fantasy thrown in.

The drums are programmed and not done live. Other than the drums, other keys & synthesizer sounds are far and few between. The songs are aggressively performed with a very grungey, garage-like sound. No polish here. The instrumentation is done well and tight enough without sacrificing the old-skool half-rock half-punk sound. They claim influences from a number of industrial harder edged groups; White Zombie, Skinny Puppy, etc. But I don't hear that in their music…if anything I hear a bit more of the Jesus & Mary Chain crossover style. And Aaron has a definitive Eldritchian look in his photo, but that's irrelevant in the frame of the music.

Cliff has a lot of metal influences in his bassing style. On songs like Angel (track 4), his bass has a definite Steve Harris ala Maiden punchiness. While Aaron performs the lead vocals, I at first assumed that David did quite a bit of singing. I was in the wrong, however…I thought I heard some changes from one person's voice to another, although extremely similar, but from what David has told me since the reason my two heard voices sounded so alike were because they were the same person. To match with Cliff's metallic bassing style the vocals also offer a more-yell-than-sing quality lending more to the heavy metal feel. The drum programming by Aaron is simple and maybe a little bland, but it adds what the songs need to keep it strong and moving. It complements well, but in considering it was programmed I tend to think there might have been a lot more Aaron could have done with it. But it does sound very much like a live drum track.

Jessica's CrimeThe first track grooves in, the mostly instrumental Rumors that sets a good mood for the rest of the CD. The CD sleeve claims that somewhere in the track the words "Can you hear me calling your name?" are heard…I haven't heard it yet after repeated listenings. While strange, it doesn't take away from the merit of the song; a strong rolling sound that grows like a wave. Very reminiscent of instrumental work from, again, Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath. A black metal feel. I think it's the guitars that give me this feeling because they have a high-pitched, near-whine throughout this track yet still remain within the framework of a controlled not-distorted sound. She (track 2) is definitely one of my favorites on the CD. A very SOM sound with this one, added to by a scratch-track that lies just under the guitars and just over the programmed drum beats. The song has a very fantasy-like quality tempered with a lovesick story. A well-written lovesick story I think, as opposed to the plethora of such out there these days.

Jessica's Crime also covers the famed Bo Diddley Who Do You Love? (track 7) here. I'm not so pleased with this one. They add a lot of fast strumming, the drum is still a bit typical and blandish, and I think it's just a simple matter of "adding too much" to the original sound of the song. It's chaotic, but in a less-controlled, more of a "just jamming" kind of way. I do have to admit that Cliff really takes the bass to the limit on this one…the bass line is fast, furious and reminds me of some of Flea's (Red Hot Chili Peppers) best slap techniques.

Another nice surprise from the tracks on Psychosemantic is the traditional/folk song they redid, The Devil's Son (track 9). A traditional piece that has floated around for years now about the infamous Blackbeard the pirate and his travels. Their instrumentation works very well with the song…normally I'd laugh at people's attempts at rock-n-rolling folk songs. But this one came out very well indeed.

Jessica's Crime is a band that is worth checking out if you like fantasy settings, mid-80's metal classics with a strong Jesus & Mary Chain or more chaotic Sisters of Mercy influence. They have an unpolished, garage-band sound that at times may get a little too chaotic and uncontrolled. I'm not sure if the excess chaos comes from them trying to perfect their garage style, which when you think about it is kind of silly (the garage style being, after all, unwanting towards perfection). If you're tired of all the new bands that churn out nothing but shiny music that by the time the band comes out of the studio it's been retracked and mixed so much that you can barely claim it was the band's music in the first place, Jessica's Crime has a lot to offer you. They're the type of band that goes in, turns on and plays…no hassles, no need to remix anything. From beginning to end, it's their music with no interventions. A rough edge can be just as beautiful as a smooth one…only more dangerous.

Contact Information:
Mail: Jessica's Crime c/o Joshua Roberson, 1120 MacArthur dr. #2708, Carrollton, TX, 75007
E-Mail: Aaron Bishop - deadgoddreaming@hotmail.com; David Hellstrom - ningirsu@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.jessicas-crime.com/