i wrote a review of the jelas ep Beetroot Yourself 3 years ago and facebook memories just reminded me, but also the original site it was on has gone! so here it is. I still 100% love the jelas
Today I did two things: I watched The Culture Show documentary about Lego and architecture, and listened to The Jelas’ new EP Beetroot Yourself.
I always think of The Jelas as smart and complicated. To me any song in anything other than 4/4 is complicated but I think by anyone’s standards The Jelas are pretty intricate. They are angular and fidgety and their lyrics are poetic and funny and it all fits together perfectly but only just. Listening to their new EP Beetroot Yourself makes me think about complexity in art. How its one of the best, most rewarding things a piece of art can be. But how it also can be terrible and off putting and self-indulgent and elitist. The Jelas are none of these things, but why?
I think the components of a Jelas song are really wonderfully accessible. The vocal melodies are really strong and simple and they carry the songs forward. The guitar and bass riffs are controlled and the drums are melodic to me, rather than repetitive. In fact there’s a complete lack of repetition, which is probably where the sense of complexity comes from, but familiar elements keep you listening. Furthermore the lyrics are totally and completely beautiful. They are poetic, filled with imagery and metaphor but Colin and Nat’s delivery is so unaffected they never come across as pretentious, only truthful. They do the things that the best of lyrics do which is talk about both the mundane and the profound in strange and exciting ways.
“The Italian coffee maker is tall and has got broad shoulders, he’s the definition of a tough barista”
In the documentary I watched this morning Tom Dychoff showed how the invention of Lego coincided with the epoch of post-war architectural ideals. Ethical and imaginative, modernist architecture put together simple, plain, unadorned spacial elements (so bricks) to create socially oriented buildings and cities. Dychoff draws a link between the simplicity of Lego with this focus on easily constructed egalitarian architecture. He also compares Lego builds to the post-modernist structures of the late twentieth century, brightly coloured shapes collected into fantastical towers.
I imagine this EP as like a city, built of so many little lego bricks of riffs, melodies and rhythms. Where The Jelas stand out is the freedom of imagination that goes into their songwriting process. What they create is an asymmetrical tower block, with square turrets and tiny triangular windows filled with pus but the elements are the same bricks anyone would use. Their subjects are universal concerns; long term relationships, illness, time.
The feeling of egalitarian, utopian concerns are not imagined. The Jelas are super DIY and unwavering members of the Bristol music community (I’ve borrowed their amps and drums loads of times). Their songs are generous and are created from the perspective of ardent listeners as well as talented musicians. This EP is powerful, beautiful and fun. An example of imaginative play enacted and formalised into a real life thing, like a lego pre-fab. True DIY.