Jelly Wobbles

A lone, mournful mariachi plays out the last fading notes of a late night lament and gives way to an elastic band fretless bassline that slurs its way throughout the opening bars, the half-cut twin brother of any of those bending, wandering basslines from Tom Waits’ Nighthawks At The Diner. A Mancini Moon River harmonica ghosts between a vocal that’s up-front and centre-stage and singing guilty thoughts about infidelity and hard drugs. Nylon-stringed guitars scrub out a rhythm straight outta Brazil 1970 as the percussion plays on the off-beat; an itchy, scratchy güiro maybe, some congas perhaps, some metallic tingaling thing or other, slow and steady and as bossanova-tastic as the percussion function on an old Bontempi, but played for real by a group of super-talented musos with not only a keen ear for detail but the ability to execute it exactly.

JellyfishBedspring Kiss

In their promo pictures they may have masqueraded as happy-go-lucky Haight-Ashbury hippies; in reality Jellyfish put just as much (and even more) effort into the finer details of their music as they did with their day-glo clothes and cartoon schtick.

You might be surprised to know they had less than little time for one another. Recording sessions were seemingly a non-stop round of arguments between singing, standing drummer Andy Sturmer and principal songwriter Roger Manning. That they created one terrific album, let alone two, is nothing short of amazing. The perfect amalgamation of Beatlish melancholy with XTC wonkiness and the Finn brothers’ ear for an unravelling melodic hook, Jellyfish on Bellybutton were especially great.

Bedspring Kiss, that track at the top, is sequenced in third-last place on its parent album. The worst place for a song to be perhaps, it’s often the track you brush over in your impatient haste to get to the big closers at the finish line  – Baby’s Coming Back and Calling Sarah in this case, multi-layered stacks of kaleidoscopic harmonies, handclaps and ringing, stinging guitars that reveal new things yet, thirty years later – but just for once, focus your attention on Bedspring Kiss and headswim in its depth and substance.

They’ve better songs, Jellyfish. Loads of ’em. But there’s something about this track that pulls you in, It’s not immediate in the way the other tracks on Bellybutton are. It forsakes much of the stuff that makes Jellyfish instantly likeable – the out of control Big Star-ish ramalama, the upbeat singalongasixties melodies, the ‘I’ve heard this before‘ Beach Boys by way of Queen (let that sink in) arrangements. In its own way, Bedspring Kiss is something of a forgotten mini-masterpiece. As is the whole album, for anyone who’s never indulged it.

Now, who has an old vinyl copy they’d be willing to donate to the Plain Or Pan Museum of Records?

4 thoughts on “Jelly Wobbles”

  1. I recently spent far too much on a vinyl copy. It’s soooo good and you’re not having it.

Comments are closed.