Fever In Fever Out

Luscious Jackson

Grand Royal / Capitol Records, 1996

http://lusciousjackson.us

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/30/2000

Early this year, Luscious Jackson announced that they would not be together. With the alternative music scene a little smaller than a blip on the current music scene, the industry met their breakup with an indifferent shrug. I had my own opinions regarding their breakup. First, I was a little stunned when I heard the news.

Though they already lost a member and were whittled down to a trio last year, they still had enough creative batteries in them to make on of the best albums of 1999: Electric Honey. To top that, they also stole the show at a couple of Lillith Fair appearances. Yet, I can't help but admire them for shutting it down. They had a great career run. And they left near the top of their game. Not that many bands can leave on a strong last album AND a solid tour to boot.

Luscious Jackson, with the help of the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest, helped create a trippy sub-genre of rap. These bands proved you could be cerebral and still have the beats to back your raps up. Luscious Jackson made it a point to explore their boundaries and incorporate different styles into their music. Their breakthrough album, Natural Ingredients, remains a great cornerstone in the early '90s alternative music scene.

The band pulled off quite the coup by hiring U2-collabarator Daniel Lanois for their album, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Fever In Fever Out, their second-to-last album. Snatch a great producer, snag Emmylou Harris for a guest vocal slot and continue what you're doing before: lock and load and out comes a classic. Well, almost.

The problem with Fever In Fever Out is something many bands do: put their most ear-catching, strongest song first. You know the drill: you hear a great song on the radio, buy the album and its right smack there on track one. The track, "Naked Eye," was probably Luscious Jackson's biggest hit. It also is a representation of what made them so good. Drummer Kate Schellenbach lays down a great percussion while Alex Young does some additional drum looping. Jill Cunniff's sexy, airy voice hooks you and the chorus is so catchy, it makes N-Sync sound like Philip Glass.

You're elevated from listening to it, now come three songs, "Don't Look Back," "Door" and "Mood Swings" that set you down and mellow you out. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But, the listener is definitely discombobulated after hearing "Naked Eye."

Still, plenty of surprises wait in Fever In Fever Out. "Under Your Skin" and "Electric" are catchy enough to make you want to come back and give them a second look. And the real zinger comes in the middle of the album. "Take A Ride" is an grand, complex jam session that steers you one way into a dreamy, sleepy state, but then takes a full rhythmic left turn and drops a memorable chorus toward the end, "Live slow, die old." Simple yes. Effective? Hell yeah.

Guest-favorite Emmylou Harris (everyone from Bob Dylan to Midnight Oil) drops in on "Soothe Yourself." And unlike other guest appearances, Harris provides a great deal of support for the song. You don't feel like she's in the album to fill some sort of "coolness quota." The song also sets the stage for the kick-back last third of the album.

"Why Do I Lie?" and "One Thing" are good tracks, but like the last half of the album, they start to lump themselves together until it sounds like a jam session made up of half-constructed songs. "Faith" is the only exception to this rule. If the album were to end on this track, Fever In Fever Out would have been a more powerful release. Instead, the album closes with "Stardust," a fine tune in itself, but it's the type of song that you'll go three minutes before you realize the album is over.

The album is still great for a warm spring day. There's enough variety and musical diversity in Fever In Fever Out to keep you wanting to explore the spacey gaps between memory lapses while you listen to it. "Naked Eye" hooks you and is one of the best songs to listen to with all of the windows down in your car while you're in a good mood. Fortunately, there's enough in Fever In Fever Out to motivate you to go beyond track one.

Rating: B

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© 2000 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Grand Royal / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.