June 15, 2014
by Karyn Albano
Buy Bread & Circuses
Bread & Circuses, the debut album from Idaho based Furious Jones is actually a follow up to their EP Bully which received some attention on nationwide college radio. The cover of this CD is deceiving. The soft silver and gold appear hazy as though behind a gauze curtain, but the music contained within this subtle packaging is anything but soft and hazy.
Furious Jones is Tom Smith on guitar and vocals and his wife Sarah Smith on drums. As a two piece, there is a temptation to compare this duo to the White Stripes, however the guitar and vocal work are entirely unique with a bit of alternative/grunge sound with obvious blues, rock and pop influences. Smith’s custom electric, classical style guitar is what sets the sound apart from other bands in the alternative genre. This coupled with the thoughtful, artfully done lyrics make this worth more than a cursory listen.
“Never” kicks things off with a thumping beat marching along to the positive message of never giving up the fight for something better. For the recording of this album, the duo enlisted Josh Gilmore to play bass. The title track, “Bread and Circuses” has more of a twangy, grunge-meets-punk feel. The bass line never relents driving home the message pulled from the quote inside the CD liner notes fro Juvenal. To paraphrase, it says that at one time the people were in control of the republic, but have since relinquished control to a few institutions of power and all they hope for are “Bread & Circuses” in return. The song projects the frustration and sadness of this situation perfectly. The tempo picks up again with the anthemic, rocker “Let Me Down”. This song is full of hooks and interesting beats that make it stick in your head long after the song is over. This is easily the catchiest song on the CD. “In a Corner” is another toe tapper. The music is upbeat and sounds like it should be a positive song, but the lyrics are written from a jaded point of view;
Yeah they can’t wait to wipe the smile right off your face.”
The theme of things that are not as great as they seem continues in “Lovin’ Hold”. The music has a funky pop vibe with intense vocals and earnest guitars. “Do It Wrong” is less impressive as a rant about historical injustices. It is too obvious in its intention to shock and provoke becoming preachy and pretentious and the chanting narrative drones on against the backdrop of repetitive chords making it the least interesting song on the CD. “Get it Together” is a Johnny Rotten like punk screed which leads us into the very cool and funky “What It Takes”. The theme of people who think they are happy being part of conventional society are actually in a kind of prison carries on into the closer, “The Cookoo Song” which makes one final appeal to step out of your cage and fight for something better before you lose yourself in convention.
Overall, Bread & Circuses is a solid, effort with themes at home in the anti-establishment punk genre but with much more sonic depth. The production could have been sharper as at times it feels a bit muted, much like the colors on the cover. Still, the guitar work shines and for the most part the lyrics are thoughtful, thus creating more than just another anthem to anarchy.
You can find more information on Furius Jones on their website FuriusJonesMusic.com.