I know we usually see posts like this in the form of gear reviews, but having recently posted in the thread about memorable guitar solos, I was reminded of a solo in a song called "New Mistake" by a band called Jellyfish. Rather than simply adding to said thread, I decided to expand my thoughts and take a few moments to talk about the band in larger extent. In the mid 1990's I was in California and was introduced to a drummer named Dan McCarrol. He was in a band called The Grays that had just finished their first and only album, Ro Sham Bo. It was a very good, clever album and The Grays were, in some ways, an under the radar "supergroup." It boasted a lineup containing a new rising star producer and player named Jon Brion, McCarrol, a hugely respected session and touring drummer, and a guitarist named Jason Faulkner. I was told that Jason had previously been the guitarist for a band called Jellyfish. When I confessed that I had never heard of them, I was told emphatically to get their two albums, sit down with headphones on loud, strap myself in and prepare for my mind to be blown. I did as told and instantly heard several strong influences: The Beatles (obviously), Queen, Badfinger, ELO, Paul's solo work, XTC, The Beach Boys, and other important Pop/Rock signature groups. I was incredibly impressed, but as I was immersed in a heavy gig schedule, I moved on. Cut forward about 20 years… About two weeks ago I stumbled upon an article about Jellyfish and decided to dust off my MP3's (don't you miss the days of Vinyl? CD's even?) and re-listened to their catalogue. I then took it further and found some live recordings, demos and live videos. I'm now in a full blown Jellyfish binge and all I can ask, over and over, is how is it possible this band didn't become the biggest band of the era and not enjoy at least a decade long dominance atop the charts? Before I answer my own question, let me talk a bit about the band and its music. If you are a lover of harmony, inventive and quirky, hook laden melody, prodigious playing, songs that grab you and somehow sound familiar yet never fall victim to easily anticipated chord changes or formula, Jellyfish will give you eargasms. The band originally consisted of Andy Sturmer, drums, guitar and lead vocals; Roger Manning, keys, guitar, vocals; Jason Faulkner, guitar, vocals; and Eric Dover, bass and vocals. Sturmer and Manning co-wrote the songs and were the driving force of the band. When they were in the process of signing a deal, close to ten labels were bidding for them, but they chose to go with a slightly smaller company, Charisma, because it was the only one that didn't propose changes to their sound. In fact, the band was given total and complete creative control. One of the band's first decisions with this power given to them was to hire Albhy Galuten to produce their album. You may not know that name, but you've heard his work. If you ever saw or listened to the famous tracks from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, you know Galuten's work. His sound is that of rich, warm, analog gear, elegant and tasteful arrangements and unmistakable hits. The result of the partnering of Galuten and the band are two albums of sonic masterpieces. The songs are brilliantly written, original and inspired, but at the same time pay homage to the music on which the band cut their collective teeth. There are hooks everywhere, clever, introspective lyrics, inventive melodies, eclectic tempo changes and some of thickest, most lush harmonies you'll hear on any record. The production is incredible. The sounds are huge, luscious and 3-dimensional. You feel the kick in your chest and the snare puts its foot in your behind. The instruments are layered and painted with care. The vocals are warm and in your face. You can listen to a given song over and over and discover something new each time. When I listen to the songs I think to myself, "I hope I can someday have a chance to record my material in this type of quality." Even with this amazing sonic character, it is the music that takes center stage. It's very hard to listen to Jellyfish and not walk away humming at least a few of the songs. Their first album, Bellybutton, was released right in the midst of the explosion of the Seattle "grunge" sound. It stood apart in nearly every way. So much so that it would have been easily believed if it were marketed as a long lost, late 1960's or early 1970's record that was never before released. There are certain songs that jumped out to me… "That Is Why" This was the band's "first hit." It got air play and is immediately catchy and memorable. It's an excellent introduction to the band, but it only scratches at the surface. They wasted no time in showing how far they were able to take their musical vision with… "The King Is Half-Undressed" This song is an explosive jet engine that defines, in many ways, the band's "PowerPop" labeling. "I Wanna Stay Home" This introspective, delicate and beautiful song shows the band's maturity and confidence to break out and stray from "PowerPop" and display their adeptness at producing a gorgeous ballad that still has balls. "Bedspring Kiss" This one took me completely by surprise. I believe Jellyfish brought in world class bass player Pino Paladino to play upright on the tune and the song is so thick and lush with it's warm percussion and rhythm, it almost seems crazy that they managed to still leave a beautiful melody at center stage and own the song. "Calling Sarah" This deep sonic ballad seems to come out of the speakers and surrounds you and almost lulls you into a near hypnotic state. Album number two, Split Milk. "Joining a Fan Club" Jellyfish's second album noted the departure of Jason Faulkner, yet they didn't miss a step. This song bursts from your speakers with their usual hooks but ups the ante with a hard rocking middle section that causes one to want to head bang like Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey in Wayne's World listening to Bohemian Rhapsody. "New Mistake" One of my favorites, this song reminds me a little of a John Lennon song and the guitar solo section (cleverly embedded in a key change) is so pretty it makes me close my eyes and smile. Yup… it's gong to remind you A LOT of George Harrison, but is that ever a bad thing? "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" Another perfect pop song dripping with hooks. It's basically a cool guitar song, but it goes so much further. It's like having a perfect dinner placed in front of you. You take a first bite and have to settle yourself because the taste is so good. And just when you think you can't get a better mouthful, you do. Each next bite is more delectable than the previous. It's one of those songs that makes me think to myself, "Man, I wish I wrote that!" Getting back to a previous question I raised, why didn't this band enjoy mammoth success and a long lasting career? I think there are several factors…the obvious thing that first jumps out to me is that they were the lone Pop band in a sea of of grunge bands when they debuted. While some grunge bands had some good things going on, the sound, in general, was very paired down and didn't require a ton of attention to hear any subtleties. The music was in your face and was, in some ways, a new generation of garage rock. It seemed to inspire folks to think that anyone could throw together a group and recreate that sound. Jellyfish, on the other hand, was complex, intricate, layered and begged all parts of your mind to sit up and take notice. Their music challenges the listener as much as it meets you more than halfway. If I were to put it in a less elegant way, I'd say it was simply too smart at a time when the vast majority of its competition was easy access to a lower common denominator of listeners. There was also some inter-band politics going on that began playing out before their second album. Aside from Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning, there were a handful of personal changes, and soon, even the partnership of the two key members began to wear thin. I was struck by an interview I read with Manning in which he confessed to hearing a new song that Sturmer had written. Manning described hearing it and replying, in so many words, "I love it, it's amazing, and I have no desire to record it." Not good. I've also read some pieces that quote both Jellyfish members and close friends who have said that their initial success was a bit much for the band and that Sturmer was not all that comfortable with the typical "lead singer" role. While I don't think we expect rock 'n roll bands too be particularly excellent public speakers, interviews with the band I've seen seem, to me, to show a group of young guys trying to navigate their way through very unfamiliar waters and never quite finding the right pace at which to swim, tread water, and ultimately stay afloat. Ultimately, I don't know if anyone can give a perfect explanation for why a truly good band did or did not succeed. All we can do is not forget a great band that gave us two albums that deserve celebration and recognition as fantastic contributions to Rock 'N Roll/Pop history. I apologize for going on so long and for running out of superlatives and adjectives. Obviously, I'm biased and really have fallen in love with this band. Not everyone will feel the same and that's cool. For those who have been kind and gentle enough to read this far, I thank you for indulging me and I hope you get as much pleasure from the music of Jellyfish as I do. Some candles burn brought and short, and Jellyfish, sadly, is one of those flames. Nevertheless, we will always have their songs and for that I am grateful. For this who wish to listen to the albums in their entirety, here are the youtube links: BellyButton Spilt Milk Thanks for reading, folks, and happy listening.