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  • Jonathan Widran

JACO, You Know

Gotta watch out for those drummers – you never know the deep, dark fantastical musings crossing their mind when they’re booming for the band, and the way those secrets may manifest when they get a chance to step out front from the kit.

You might never suspect, for instance, that Jake Waltzman, the longtime skinner for Birmingham rock bands Vulture Whale, The Wes McDonald Plan and Ham Bagby, had a creepy and intense quasi-Tarantinoesque crime drama/psychological thriller video in him.It’s a magical black and white clip that brilliantly illuminates the dark themes of “Blackboard,” an infectious, jangly rocker and the first single from You Know, the high octane and ear-shattering but deeply affecting and often beautifully melodic debut by Waltzmans’ hipster artist nom de plume Jaco.

Not surprisingly, Jaco has been quietly plotting this emergence as a master blaster rock/power-pop visionary for some time, working on tracks behind the scenes that explore intense, haunting recesses of his artistry that might initially freak out some of Vulture Whale’s fans. Over time, though, they should come to embrace this majestic and powerful, electric guitar dominant collection that was culled from the multitude of fresh sonic concepts he had been accumulating for over a decade.

Crazy as it sounds, though the first two tracks vary in propulsive and harmonic energy, the blistering percussive jam “On the Ground” and the harmonically dreamy guitar cruncher “For Myself sound a bit like “Tommy”-era Who – a compliment if every there is one. Though the point of these tracks – featuring Les Nuby (lead guitar) and Greg Slamen (bass) – seems to be to create as fiery a wall of sound as possible, the real joys are when Jaco showcases his strong, soulful vocals on the more instantly hummable of the tunes, like the soaring, whimsical “Shoe” and the bright, romantic closer “All Your Life.”

The intensity is always there, bubbling under the surface if not right in our faces, but the minute the guitars and drums are even a tiny bit restrained, Jaco shows that he’s got the vocal stuff to be an indie artist who endures.

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