If you’ve ever gone out drinking with public school teachers, you know they’re a rowdy bunch. Maybe the job requires the same kind of youthful energy that carries you through to late night karaoke. Maybe the stress of attempting to get kids excited about global conflict or quadratic formulas makes you yearn for catharsis at the end of the week. Whatever it is, teachers go hard.
So too, does Jaguar Stevens, the Denver trio that molds young minds by day and shreds sweet licks by night. The band’s eponymous debut, released August 6, is an unhinged hard-rock romp through the minds of three high school english teachers. But, unlike your school principal’s ska band who’s shows he creepily handed out tickets to, Jaguar Stevens is laid on a foundation of excellent musicianship and solid connections in the Denver music scene.
Throughout the record, (produced by Nate Cook of the Yawpers), colossal riffs are driven by Steve Bartholomew’s distorted guitar with drummer Miles Jenkins and guest bassist Jeremy Averitt laying down a rock solid, and at times frenzied, backdrop. Singer Caleb Wohlust delivers theatrical vocal performances that are alternatively reminiscent of David Byrne and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.
The band confidently hops through hard rock genres. “Unintended Link,” is a short-but-sweet Soundgarden-esque balad meshing acoustic guitars with electric. The refrain matches the folksy feel — “Nature is so sweet and wide this concrete jungle I can not reconcile.”
The lead single, “All the Things He Said,” is foot-stomping Americana-punk. Wohlust wails, disillusioned by the shallowness of casual dating. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics are a bit opaque, but the emotion is clear.
“This is Who You Are” is a highlight. Ominous organ drones behind steady 8th notes in the bass. The chorus is hooky, and the tension builds until the music erupts into a truly weird climax.
Jaguar Stevens might have full-time day jobs, but it’s clear they put their heart and soul into this project. The result is intricate, evocative and worth more than one listen.