Jesse Fischer & Soul Cycle: Retro Future
There is an old adage which states “never judge a book by its cover.” This phrase stems from the fact that publishers generally choose the cover of books, not the author. This adage does not hold water with records. Artists generally choose their own record cover and it is a certainty Jesse Fischer choose the cover of his latest record, Retro Future. The cover features Fischer clad in a cheesy pink shirt, plaid bowtie, sunglasses, and suspenders sporting a shit-eating grin in front of a grid that looks straight out of Bladerunner. And the cover is completely indicative of what the album contains.
From the opening track, “Tanqueray & Tonic,” the listener knows that the cheesiness of the cover is indicative of a cheesy album. At nearly six minutes long, the opener sounds like a jam session of Stevie Wonder‘s “Sir Duke” gone awry. From the light funk guitar to the smooth jazz saxophone, the track is steeped in a brand of 80s music that has never made a comeback. Listening to “Tanqueray & Tonic,” I could only imagine people in colorful Cosby sweaters dancing around while credits rolled past them.
The album for the most part is all instrumental except for three strategically placed cover songs. The first is “Age of Aquarius” which comes fairly early on in the album. For an album struggling to not sound antiquated and cheesy, this was an ill-advised choice of cover. Instrumentally, the track does sound a little more modern than the album opener–mostly due to the replacement of saxophone with flute–but its still hard to listen to and not see the scene from 40 Year Old Virgin.
The only cover that does play well is the album’s closer, “Landslide.” The track is the most Fischer song on the album. Fischer’s synths and moogs are the only instrument used (besides sparse drums near the end). The vocals are also done by Fischer; although he uses a talk box to process his vocals into a robot-like voice. Something about the robot voice singing Stevie Nicks‘ immortal words about growing old turns the song’s meaning on its head.
Surely some will argue that I missed the point of the record–it is called Retro Future because it is a take on what people of the past thought the future would be like–but as an album, it is a hard sell for modern listeners. Obviously, Fischer is an experienced keyboardist and the music is played with precision but when the style is so old hat, it is hard to enjoy.
MP3: Jesse Fischer & Soul Cycle “Landslide”
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ actually means the content of the book cannot be judge by the outter appearance of the book as a whole. The saying predates the dust jacket (which has only been around about seventy or so years) or the even more modern cover art graphics you’re referencing here.
Before public libraries were common everywhere, books were a very expensive commodity and traded or lent widely within communities. The best written or most important books often traded hands dozens if not hundreds of times and their bindings and covers deteriorated with usage. So often the worst, most beat up books contained the most interesting or else most demanded work.