Label: Bright Orange Biscuit
Year of Release: 1999
"It was inevitable, really, as pop music choked on stale dadrock pie, that we'd soon turn to some evanescent psychedelic sorbets to clean the palate..." - so began the NME's review of Jumbo's only album "CB Mamas" back in 1999. During the tail end of the nineties, there was a belief in some critical quarters that now the chief adult rock librarians Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller had decided to allow the likes of Ocean Colour Scene unlimited access to their vaults (even on early closing Wednesdays) to pilfer riffs, music had to go in a lopsided direction to remain fresh. If they didn't think that the Super Furry Animals, Mercury Rev and Olivia Tremor Control were showing us the way, there was a belief that perhaps post-rock may be the future instead. Some are inclined to argue that it was at this point that the mainstream music press "lost its way", backing bands who were utterly peculiar and unlikely to sell large quantities of records - personally, I believe it was just beginning to get back on track again, but lost its bottle pretty swiftly. A pre-Britpop NME would never have given a shit about whether their critical praise actually translated into platinum sales, and the fact that many of the above mentioned bands failed to become the next U2 or Oasis shouldn't have been the main criteria for excluding them from the magazine in the long term.
Whatever - there's now precious little information about Jumbo available, which is surprising for a band who emerged as the Internet had just begun to get seriously whirring, and also had an NME CD compilation appearance (as part of 1999's "On"). From my utterly inaccurate memory where "citation needed" shall be our guiding catchphrase, they hailed from Newcastle and composed a pack of confusing, lysergic and staggering ditties, with wild horns, scattering guitar lines, berserk time signatures and hollered vocals. Their products owed a lot more to the US underground than (for example) The Super Furries or Gorky's Zygotic Mynci were producing at the same time, but were intriguing and actually quite awkward records. Whereas Gorky's were engaging in English pastoral whimsy and silliness, Jumbo sounded like a competition between a youth club orchestra as to who could hold dominance over a song's direction or mood. Both "Brighten Up" and "H.O.N. Honey" are uneasy listening, but a lot of fun if you're in the right frame of mind.
Sadly, I'm also forced to agree with the NME's reviewer's sentiments about Jumbo seldom transcending the sum of their influences, but across seven inches they did make a nice noise. One is forced to wonder what became of the pups, and whether they're in bands now producing equally interesting material. It's an odd question to ask of a band who ceased trading a mere ten years ago, but sometimes acts do seem to slip off the radar very quickly indeed.
(This entry was originally written in March 2009. Little information has come to light since, but apparently members Andy Hodson, Gary Bowden and Jon Lee are still making music around Newcastle - and if they'd like to step up and plug their material, they'd be very welcome indeed).