JJ72 - Manchester Academy - 19.10.02

Something's changed in JJ72's world and it goes way beyond the fact that Mark Greeney has a new haircut. In just over the twelve months they've been away Mark has split up with his long time girlfriend (and Hilary's twin sister), the band nearly cracked up over the pressure of recording the bands second album and the most significant change is that Mark has rediscovered the questioning spirit which developed back in the days of his Catholic upbringing. Not that JJ72 have gone all religious on us and taken to preaching from the good book - more that simplistic sentiments like "Why won't it snow, like they said it would"  - which even back on their debut were still hard to fathom what exactly he was going on about - are wrapped up even further in a weight of religious references and incomprehensible lyrical passages.

This their first live outing in 12 months (with the exception of a couple of low key shows) follows last years peak of touring with Coldplay in the States and supporting U2 at Slain Castle. Following the tour with Amen earlier in 2001, JJ72 were taking things to the furthest extremities manageable with shows ending in squeals of feedback and the whole show bathed in the sort of guitar effects which made a Muse show look tame. Sadly, a prog rock future ala Ultrasound was not to be and with the release of "I To Sky" it seems that JJ72 live shows are going to be more restrained affairs with time for reflection and thought rather than bang, bang bang and out. Ultimately it makes for a testing experience with much of the audience waiting for the likes of "Snow" and "Oxygen", while looking at each other in despair during "Always and Forever" and "I Saw A Prayer". JJ72 were always known for their youthful energy, while still unleashing the sort of bile which attracted lost Manics fans to the fold...yet now slightly older and wiser the music is more suited to lying horizontal in a bedsit than in a live setting. Only a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games" manages to save the day, which i'm sure in the bands expectations is the last thing they were asking for.

The world has changed a lot since last time JJ72 were on the circuit and at a time when meaningless bands are the order of the day, we needed JJ72 more than ever and sadly they were simply too self-indulgent and let us down. Maybe like fellow irish band Ash this could be a short term blip where they kick against what made them great in the first place before returning to classic 3 minute pop records. But one things for sure  - with the likes of Kinesis biting at their heels, JJ72 need to get back on track before they become a long forgotten memory.

Alex McCann

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