JJ72 - Manchester Academy 3 - 17.5.05

There was a time when JJ72 had the world at their feet. Mark Greaney's ego had spiralled out of control, but it was fuelling the bands creative juices and when it came to the showdown with rock behemoths Amen, the band performed a David and Goliath style victory march. Then they just stopped dead. Uber babe Hillary left the world of rock n roll to learn Russian, Fergal took the first real job of his life on a builders site and Mark, forever the charmed one, set about writing the next JJ72 album while his pop doppelganger Jonathan from G4 came and stole all his high notes.

The band we meet now for all intents and purposes is the band we first met around October Swimmer. The vocal histrionics and guitar heroics have been reeled in, in favour of letting the songs breathe. One uber babe has been replaced by another, Sarah Fox, and Fergal the quiet mysterious drummer has morphed into a great rock drummer. It's still JJ72.

Ever the hypochondriac Greeney limps on like the walking wounded (readers he's got a sniffle), knowing all too well there's nothing more indie girls like than a sensitive fop with an ailment to nurse better. It's a card he's been playing for years and it still works after a 3 year hiatus. With only two new songs, "She's Gone" a download single, and "Heat" a trailer on the bands website, available to fans it's a tug of war between the songs we know and love and the songs soon to be close to our hearts. It's telling that much of the difficult second album "I To Sky" is left by the wayside, but "Formulae" signals a time when epic pretensions were all part of the JJ72 mould. The early singles "Snow", "Oxygen" and "Long Way South" maintain a youthful energy about them all these years later which is testement to the songwriting of Mark Greaney.

It must be the luck of the Irish, but the new songs suggest an Ash style revival is just round the corner with the long awaited 3rd album. "Take From Me" starts off with a drum machine intro as "Long Way South" did all those years ago and then goes into a radio friendly chorus of woo woo woo woooo. "Everything" meanders for the first minute or so before exploding into euphoric chorus with a refrain of "make me feel like nothing is everything". It's the sort of song that will soundtrack footballs hopes and fears on match of the day next year on Match Of The Day. "Coming Home" is the sound of classic female fronted Motown ballad as played by The Auteurs with a huge Spector-sized chorus. Lyrically it works it's way through dark Nick Cave-esque passages with "I would murder men for you" and "I will dig a grave for you...oh, lets make it a grave for two" standing out.  "Radio" is less immediate, but Greaney's vocals on this track are strangely alluring with words stretched out till an inch of their life.

The new model JJ72 have all the signs that their ascendance could be sooner rather than later. Where they may lack the live impact that those last few shows made, they now have radio friendly choruses that can show the likes of Snow Patrol and Feeder how British rock is meant to sound.

Alex McCann

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