[sic] Magazine

The Samuel Jackson Five – Goodbye Melody Mountain

While they may have a daft name – a combination of Samuel L. Jackson and The Jackson Five – this Oslo, Norway-based quartet play some of the most intelligent instrumental rock around right now. Eschewing loud-quiet dynamics and apocalyptic atmospherics in favour of strong melodies and inventive arrangements, SJ5 have, in third album Goodbye Melody Mountain, their finest set of songs to date.

Blistering opener ‘Face The Fax’ (groan!) continues SJ5’s track record of excellent opening tracks, almost besting Easily Misunderstood’s standout ‘Skinflick Dress Rehearsal’. Sizzling fuzz guitar lines alternate with quieter passages of acoustic guitar, violin and congas, before the two sections seem to bleed together and build into a rocktastic riff-off that ebbs and flows gloriously. ‘Face The Fax’ is a perfect example of the breadth and depth of SJ5’s considerable talents, with the song more than earning its five-minute run time. Most instrumental bands struggle to cover as much ground in twice the time.

‘Hey Now, Who Really Cares’ begins beautifully with a droning synth and piano before accumulating momentum. Melodies are traced out on acoustic guitar and glockenspiel then a staccato guitar momentarily drags the song into familiar post-rock territory. And then the song seems to end. But no! A pretty acoustic guitar and piano section leads into some doomy riffing, a lovely short passage with woodwinds, later building into a gorgeous climax with vibrato guitar lines and an ascending vocal harmony.

To go into all the details that make this album so impressive and enjoyable would spoil the surprises, but other highlights include the addictive rhythmic clip of ‘So Many Cowboys, So Few Indians’ and the way in which closer ‘How To Evade Your Obsessive Shadow’ weaves through several riff-heavy sections before riding off into the sunset with harmonised vocal lines. SJ5 make some of the most richly melodic and addictive instrumental rock around, and I can’t wait for their next album. Meanwhile, I just have to keep my fingers crossed that they play live when I visit Oslo in October…