For fans of the rock/funk/ska/reggae sound popularized by bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime and 311 in the 1990s, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack may not be much of a secret. Good for them.
For the rest of us, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack may not ring many bells, which is a shame since the band’s sophomore effort Bring Your Own Stereo in many ways epitomizes the vivacious, swaggering style of the aforementioned bands.
JCS is really the product of Jimi Haha, as he is the lead guitarist, lead vocalist and only consistent member. In Haha we find a musician who set out to create a great party album and did just that.
On tracks like “Lazy Boy Dash,” “Do Right,” “Ooh,” and “Trash,” Haha displays his ability to write hooks you will be humming for days after the party.
On “String of Pearls,” and the album’s last four tracks (“Silence Again,” “Pure,” “Waiting” and “30 Days”) Haha tones it back a bit, even keeps it mellow at certain points. While the presence of range is great, there is not doubt that this album is skewed with the big anthems up front and the after party left at the back end.
What holds the album together is its combination of the sonic elements toyed around with in the late 90s.
In BYOS we see the whole acoustic/electric guitar aesthetic really come to a grand-sounding head (look no further than opener “Spiraling” for evidence.)
The laid back surf vibes in “String of Pearls” and “30 Days” avoid sounding too breezy.
Basically, JCS recognized the retreat from depressing grunge and post-grunge that occurred in the late 90s and created an album that is an oasis (no reference to the band) of good times.
Of course, as is with most party rock, the merits of the lyrics are suspect. Take for instance the lines surrounding the albums namesake:
Another night that kills
The music heals
Bring your own stereo
They smoke banana peels
At times Haha is a little less lazy, but I’m not going to try to defend the lyrics. The point to remember, however, is that the lyrics match the mood and goal of the album – and with an album whose goal is to get you wasted and skinny-dipping, depth is more important in the pool out back than in the lyrics.
The main reason Bring Your Own Stereo didn’t get nearly as big as it could have, nor nearly as big as it sounds is the fact that it came at the tail end of the 90’s. In the years leading up to its release, the bands that opened the doors for Bring Your Own Stereo dominated the music scene, so the album seemed poised to be a big hit.
Unfortunately, the steam behind the rock/funk/ska/reggae fusion seemed to be running out just as BYOS dropped. All label and promotional snafus regarding the album aside, the young (and more than likely stoned) audience for JCS’ sound was probably just worn out and ready for something different.
Unfortunately, that something different came in the form of gangster rap and pop punk bands. The album’s flop, for all intents and purposes, was most likely a case of “all good things must come to an end.”
Those who stuck around, however, were treated to a superb culmination of the sonic experiments of the late 90s, as well as a damn good time. So if you’re ever in a situation where the alcohol is plentiful, but good music is not, don’t be a snob. Just bring your own stereo and play some Jimmie’s Chicken Shack.