On their last album It's Winter Here, The Jim Yoshii Pile Up created a nice batch of tracks that mixed touching melodies and vocals with moments that flat-out rocked. With three guitarists in the band, the group can create some seriously textured music, and that first release toyed with the dynamics of such and the release was one that had me pretty hopeful in hearing their future output.
Because of that, I was sort of disappointed upon hearing Homemade Drugs. While stylistically the group is still much the same, there's something about the new release that just fails to grab me. After a year of turmoil with the group that included moves, personel changes, and a near-death of a family member, it seems like even more of that would show up in the music, but instead it seems like more restraint has gone into things. While there are still moments where every member plays into the mix, there are many others where it simply feels like the corners have been rounded off a bit and the three-guitar lineup doesn't even make itself known.
While that makes for some uncertain tension and pretty moments, a lot of what I at least found intriguing about the group has seeped out. There's no doubting that tracks like "Distance" and "Middle Harbour Road" are touching and beautiful, but they don't grab my attention like their last release. I mentioned the sometimes-dreaded word "emo" in my last review of the band, as they seemed to embody moments where it was all about breaking heartstrings, but Homemade Drugs seems almost tailor-crafted that way from start to finish. Lyrically, singer Gonzenbach seems as bummed-out as ever, with nearly every track featuring jaded lyrics about uncertainties of life and things just plain sucking.
Lest it sounds like I'm completely bashing the release, there are moments on the album that get close to the more raw urgency that they displayed on It's Winter Here. "Double Negative" builds into a rather feverish finale after a quiet beginning, with all the guitars playing a prominent part in the track, while "A Deep Deep Lake" mixes explosive moments with dark atmosphere that recalls the middle years of The Cure. It's not so much the quiet heartsleeve sound that bothers me about the release as it is the sheer polish of it all (more Jimmy Eat World than what I remembered from Jim Yoshii). There are still enough fine moments, but when the release is finished spinning, it's harder to remember them.