– Music review: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound’s “Howl”
Photo: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Photo by Clayton Hauck, © 2013. Photo courtesy of Bloodshot Records.


By Albert Nall, Staff Writer for The Current

Is the Chicago-based band JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound a victim of its own press? Based on first impressions of Chicago-based band JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound’s album “Howl” one might conclude that their style is that of the underground punk sound, complete with distorted guitars and lyrics designed to enrage. But what we get from the beginning on the title cut with JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, contrary to first impressions, is nothing short of true finesse.

“Howl” by JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound album cover art. Image courtesy of Bloodshot Records. © 2013.

“Howl” begins slowly in a way that is introspective and polished. The beat with Billy Bungeroth on guitar and Ben Taylor on bass is professional with great zest and a pulsating vibe that is upbeat and optimistic. With Kevin Marks (drums) and Andy Rosenstein (keyboards) backing lead singer JC Brooks on vocals, their album is a retrospective blend of rock and “old school” R&B that puts customary alternative rock to shame.

Some of the premises included in “Howl” appear quite oblique and centered on issues of trust and illicit love and the denials that go with it. What resonates in the some of the numbers is someone who is a snoop and a patron of untamed ardor. There is a lust for power, dominance and control over the other as well as co-existences and a loathing of the beloved. At the same time, there is a clear revulsion of what the paramour in this tale has become, in songs “Married for a Week” and “Rouse Yourself”

In “River” and “Cold” the subtext is holding on when things are collapsing. Both numbers go from melancholy at the beginning to angry and hostile defiance. The meekness and insolence of being a romantic captive becomes part of the quest for personal triumph over romantic compulsions that evolve into rebellion and noncooperation.

In “Howl” this is the oxymoron; an upbeat and a pulsating response to what for some would be sadistic and despondent themes.

In analysis of JC Brooks, “Howl” is a form of postmodern rock that has transformed itself from its early soul music roots to overarching themes and interpretations of contemporary culture. There is an interplay of divergent cultures and systems where what is the idealistic peaceful existences is counteracted by violent anarchy or wanton expressions. How lead singer JC Brooks manages to bring an alluring and captivating persona to very threatening matters becomes the symbol, the meaning and the message. JC Brooks as a musician gets across loud and clear because he resonates with the collective social consciousness of his audiences in a way that is serious, mature and earnest.

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound debuted Howl for St, Louis fans at Off Broadway on August 9. With backing on the “Rouse Yourself” video from “Parks and Recreation” actress Aubrey Plaza on NBC and Jake Johnson from Fox’s “The New Girl,” JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound is indeed on its way to establishing a presence that sets itself in the front of the field for independent pop artists.

“Howl” can be purchased for $13.95 at bloodshotrecords.com. Also, you can download selections from the album at Amazon, Fina-music and i-Tunes.


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