Jonquil will be fondly remembered by some as a six-piece who created lush yet intimate songs that were crafted with care. Their last record in particular, 2008’s Lions, was a gorgeous example of the heights they managed to reach. This pre-amble makes it sound as though the band had split up. They haven’t; but their recent history is kind of complicated.
Between then and the release of third album Point Of Go they lost three members (who subsequently went on to form Trophy Wife) and faced a stark choice: either call it a day or carry on. They chose the latter and, with the addition of a new member, have decided to reinvent themselves. This presents the listener with a dilemma. Is their new collection to be treated as the follow-up album to Lions that it technically is, or as the work of a new band altogether?
It works best when treated as a debut. There are certain trademarks to their reworked sound that recall their Oxford contemporaries; the guitars especially chime in a way that’s not a million miles from Foals. For all the changes they’ve undergone, their music still manages to convey the warm feeling that made them compelling in the first place; though what would have been achieved via rousing folky sing-alongs with acoustic guitars and accordians is now arrived at by means of twinkly synths and soft electric guitars.
Even though this revised sound is both louder and sunnier, there are traits that underline the fact that this is a Jonquil record. Opening track Swells is an immediate winner thanks to its thumping beat and, after some time, synths begin to whir into life before being joined by trumpet fanfares. The title track, split into two parts, starts off sparsely with just guitar and Hugo Manuel’s vocals, as stark and as captivating as they’ve always been, before he exclaims “I feel wide awake” as twinkly keyboards take hold.
At their best, they can make vast soundscapes out of just a few textures. Getaway is driven by its intense rhythm section and, just as soon as it rises, it slowly falls back down and fizzles out. But by the end of the record the ideas start to dry up, until History Of Headaches finishes off the LP with a whimper.
Jonquil v2.0 have potential. Even when the tunes don’t hit their mark there are aspects that suggest future growth in their sound is possible. If they can find a spark that separates them from the rest of the pack then this change of personnel and subsequent direction could bring about an heroic rebirth. As it is, Point Of Go is a decent, albeit flawed, transition album.