The LICKERISH QUARTET – ” Threesome Vol. 1 “

Posted: June 3, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Jellyfish co-founder Roger Joseph Manning Jr. is returns with a new band The Lickerish Quartet which also features Tim Smith and Eric Dover, two other musicians who played a part in the Jellyfish story around the time of the second album.

Jellyfish flirted with UK chart success in the early nineties, but never quite crossed over into the mainstream, despite the creative core of the band – singer/drummer Andy Sturmer and keyboard player Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – delivering some timeless, melodic power-pop, with influences coming courtesy from the likes of The Beatles, Queen, and ELO. They were, in many ways, a band out of time, with the release of 1990’s Bellybutton coinciding with the ‘Madchester’ scene in the UK and follow-up Spilt Milk (1993) being issued at the height of the Grunge movement emerging from Seattle.

If Eric and Tim are unfamiliar, then let’s establish their credentials; Tim Smith was brought in to play guitar on “Split Milk”, while Eric Dover joined the band on the road for the tour of the same album. Jellyfish broke up after that tour, but since then, the three musicians have forged their own paths with occasional overlapping projects. Roger is probably best known as being the keyboard player in Beck‘s band for over 20 years, Tim has worked with the Finn brothers Neil and Tim, Sheryl Crow and Noel Gallagher, while Dover was in Imperial Drag with Roger (they released just the one album before disbanding in 1997). Andy Sturmer has no involvement in The Lickerish Quartet , Roger Joseph Manning Jr. explained that their goal “wasn’t to resurrect Jellyfish, it was simply to get together and write original music we love”.

The first release is Threesome Vol. 1 a four-track EP which will be issued on vinyl and CD that is brimming with the kind of joy and invention that made those two Jellyfish albums so good. It includes ‘Lighthouse Spaceship‘, six minutes of harmony-driven classic rock with all those aforementioned influences clearly in place, alongside the exquisite production values that made Jellyfish so highly regarded.

Manning’s ‘Bluebird’s Blues‘ as is a slice of folk-guitar power-pop with cheeky 10cc-referencing intro, while the Dover-driven Fadoodle is a ludicrously catchy, and rather humourous number, which according to Roger, “has the distinction of being a pop song that has the world’s oldest slang yet is released in the 21st century” (Fadoodle apparently means fornicate).

”Our intention is always to keep the point of the song fairly straightforward and very catchy right from the onset. We enjoy having fun with production and arranging intricacies here and there, but we never want those to overshadow the raw, innocent beauty of a song. This whole song, both musically and lyrically, is pretty much from myself. Obviously, Eric and Tim are in there, they help with the arrangement and some sections, like the intro, outro and some stuff in the bridge. But the lyric and the core of the verses and choruses came from me.

My gosh, I wrote most of that song in 1988! The lyric was written very recently, in the last couple of years, but most of the music came right when I graduated from college and I was living on my own in San Francisco. Jellyfish hadn’t even formed yet, but I was working with Andy [Sturmer] who was going to be my partner in that band. I was writing lots and lots of songs and that was just an idea that popped out. There were so many songs to do over the years in Jellyfish and other projects that it never got completed and I thought it would be a perfect song to try for the Lickerish Quartet.

The lyric basically is the old familiar tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. That’s me taking that theme and running with it. It’s really about any young man who wants to get the attention of a woman he’s attracted to but has no self-confidence, he has no social skills. He’s inept to speak his heart. Very often that’s a lot of musicians or poets and they’ll do that through their art because they often don’t have what it takes to simply walk up to a woman and tell them directly that they’re attracted to them.

When I work on songs and create ideas I never really have a lyric in mind, that always comes later. I would sing made up words and gibberish just so I can create a melody, so when I first wrote that song I was singing this ’bluebird’ word over and over again. I decided to run with it to see if I could create an entire lyric that way. So yeah, the bluebird is the one who serenades the girl because the man is ill-equipped to do so for himself, ha ha!

Everything you hear in the song is very, very intentional. It takes us a very long time to create this music. We always try to hold the listener’s attention, we never want the listener to start nodding off or for things to become too repetitive or too boring, so we love all the games, earcandy, playfulness and seduction we try to do as audio. The intro is mysterious, ’what’s about to happen?’. It’s sucking you in ideally to this mysterious world that happens in the first verse which is very stripped down.

We love having fun with background vocals. So many of our heroes inspired us over the years, certainly in the sixties and seventies. Rock and pop artists could really harmonize and sing very well, certainly a lot of the psych pop in the sixties. They experimented with the power of vocals. We enjoy doing that too on our own terms.”

Roger Joseph Manning Jr.

Finally, ‘There Is a Magic Number‘ a gorgeous yearning Smith-penned rumination on lost love, blame and attribution. Mid-paced soft-rock perfection.

Manning said with some regret, that it was clear to him back in 1993/4 that “both Eric and Tim were fantastic singer-songwriters in their own right” but that because Jellyfish broke up “we never got to conduct that experiment and continue on in that Jellyfish writing tradition.” He also makes no apologies for his musical influences: “You’ve got to be honest with yourself and what excites me and motivates me for the most part, is the record collection I grew up with as a young boy and a young man.”

The Threesome Vol. 1 EP will be released on CD on 26th June and on vinyl on 31st July 2020.

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