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GRAMPALL JOOKABOX – Ropechain (Joyful Noise Recordings/Asthmatic Kitty Records)

Posted: October 22nd, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

A host of swirling echoes and schoolgirl voices jump from ear to ear. A proud and primal beat follows. Welcome to the jarringly entertaining world of Grampall Jookabox, Indiana’s prime beat master and tune churner.

Quite a bit of drama to this release. David Adamson, the man behind the moniker, was struck by inspiration, cancelled a weekend of gigs and sat in his basement to write and record ‘a string of songs that seemed to arise spontaneously’. A week later and here we have ‘Ropechain’, Adamson’s second release.

Grampall Jookabox could very easily be simplistic rather than attractively plain and simple. His ethos would appear to be fancy-free dirty pop tunes. It’s not easy to aim for interesting simplicity and skirt the border of being simplistic. Plenty of tracks have booming, rudimentary drums with one sizeable chunk of a beat sufficiently carrying the song along. Rather like how one hefty pasty carries the appetite through the day, no-nonsense – it just simply delivers.

‘Old Earth, Wash My Beat’ includes lush tropical chimes and tribal chants. It’s this and the ponderous drum, washed down with hits of excessively reverb’d vocals, that define Grampall Jookabox in all his wild idiosyncrasy. Iggy Pop certainly has some influence of Adamson’s loose, slurred vocal delivery but it does in no way try to mimic the Stooge’s ‘spat’ style.

What seems to be a rough treatment of a rather delicate subject turns out to be the opposite. In ‘The Girl Ain’t Preggers’ Adamson at first pines at the fact he might have impregnated some ‘girl’: “Ain’t got no money – I can’t pay for no baby”. But nearing the end of the song we see a true realisation that is pretty saddening: “I love the baby’s hands (tiny hands) I wanna wrap it round my finger”. Not exactly depressing on a Lou Reed scale but still a troubling and faintly tragic mourning for a child that was not to be.

‘Ropechain’ is well produced enough for the beats and bass to get underneath and shake to high-heaven that low, unlocatable part of the ear. It’s a solid album – not the most easy of listens nor a headache to get through. But the album’s beauty is that Adamson has left the core musical message to resemble what it is: a bare, un-polished and muddily proud bunch of rugged tunes.


Pascal Ansell