Material: The roots of Juju Blooms are embedded in jazz and funk along with melodic garage rock, and that should lead to some gloriously exciting sounds. Instead, the fact that the three men in the group are skilled musicians only makes it more infuriating that their songs come across as seriously lightweight, and that cross-pollination of styles only gets in their way. At best, their own material, such as “Distance,” sounds like a Weezer outtake. At worst, they sound like later-era Red Hot Chili Peppers demos. It’s not that the band is bad—not by any means. But the songs are just “there,” and that’s not good enough. The writing needs work. Mind you, the cover of the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” was magical, not least because, up until that point, there was nothing about the band that suggested a raunchy, naughty side. Another cover, of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination,” was also well played. So, with the right tunes, this band sounds great.
Musicianship: Nothing to complain about here. The band is a tight unit—clearly well-rehearsed. Crnko is a solid drummer, and he and Stevens combine to form an effective rhythm section. That allows Trainer the freedom to widdle with his guitar. Trainer is also the stronger vocalist (Stevens takes the lead on a few occasions), but the two harmonize beautifully too.
Performance: There’s really no performance to speak of. The trio stand fairly still and play the songs, dressed in perfectly ordinary clothes. Between songs, they only speak to introduce the next one or to murmur “thanks.” One assumes the aim is to allow the songs to speak for themselves. This is a mistake.
Summary: Juju Blooms aren’t without charm, they can play their instruments, and their choice of covers is inspiring. What they need to do now is go away and write a handful of songs that do them justice. The foundations are in place for an enjoyable band—they attract a decent crowd to the Hotel Cafe for a midweek show, and a lot of the girls in attendance let loose with a few wild screams to show their appreciation. But each original song that the band plays is forgotten as soon as they kick into the next one. A few hooks and effective melodies, and the Jujus will truly bloom.
The Players: Tucker Trainer, vocals, guitar; Vinni Stevens, vocals, bass; Nick Crnko, drums.
Photo by Brett Callwood
Venue: Hotel Cafe
City: Hollywood, CA