iTunes Single of the Week: Jamie N Commons & X Ambassadors, “Jungle”

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Contrary to popular belief, rock isn’t dead.  Unfortunately, however, it has become rather zombified of late.  I’m of the somber opinion that the 90’s grunge/post-grunge period was the last great hurrah for the format, with everything after– rap-rock, the monstrosity that was nu-metal, pop-punk, emo, screamo, what-have-you– being so much sonic dreck.  There are a few bands that soldier on and manage to remain fresh and relevant– Foo Fighters come to mind, but sadly I can’t think of any others off the top of my head– but for the most part there hasn’t been anything new under the sun for many moons.  X Ambassadors would like to change that opinion, but their new single “Jungle”, featuring vocals by British singer/songwriter Jamie N Commons, feels both derivative and reductive of a lot of earlier (dare I say, better) songs from hard rock’s 70’s/80’s heyday.

X Ambassadors, from Ithaca, New York, have put out a couple of EPs and toured extensively with Imagine Dragons (a band I happen to like, so I guess I can put them in the “rock’s not dead” bin too).  Jamie N Commons is a classically trained blues artist (what a combination!) and co-wrote “Jungle” with the band, and his earthy, scratchy vocals are the track’s main selling point.  The song utilizes an overly familiar rhythm line, the sharply staccato stomp-clap you’ve heard in everything from Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” to Katy Perry’s “ET”.  It sounds like the musical equivalent of putting a fresh coat of paint on a Pontiac:  it might appear new, but you know it’s not because the brand no longer exists.  I desperately want some rock band to come along and prove me wrong– c’mon, Champ, wake up!– but from what I can tell from this single, X Ambassadors is not going to be that band. If anything, this single makes me sadder for the future of the genre than I was before.  If this is what rock is now– stale retreads without a sense of irony, homage or any kind of originality– I’m afraid rock is trying to get in and eat our brains instead of engaging them.  The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade:  D

 

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