This is a review of "Radio Elite" recorded by Juma. The review was written by Rob Paul Chapman in 2004.
One of the most frequently heard phrases that you will hear from an artist of any kind is the following: "I don’t mind criticism, as long as it's constructive". The trouble with this statement is exactly what constitutes 'constructive'? For example "Rick Waller should eat less pies" is constructive criticism. It may not be very easy to – ahem – digest, but it’s certainly constructive. The trouble is that when most bands say they appreciate constructive criticism, in truth they don't. They want easy-to-take criticism. Like for example "if you'd put the guitar slightly higher in the mix your one star album would have got five stars". Trouble is, quite often the most constructive thing you can advise a band to do is to "split up" unless they wish to do anything other enjoy themselves and torture their neighbours.
Juma should not split up by the way.
In fact, apologies to Juma as its taken a full paragraph for them to get a mention and this is their review after all, however there is a point to this. And it is this: My main criticism of this four track release is simple, but unfortunately there is very little that any journalist (be they a 'lil old amateur like me, or Lester Bangs) can do to soften this up or make "constructive criticism" as to how this slight issue can be resolved. So I would ask you to take this in the way that it is intended. Constructively.
So, err, here goes...
Frankly, these songs aren’t very good.
To be more precise, they are bland, derivative, uninspiring and, to be blunt, plain boring. This is a major shame, because behind the drabness is actually a rather good band. Juma play well, in a kind of Stone Roses-y early nineties type way. However, this is an area that has remained popular for the last 10 years despite the plethora of bands plying their trade in this way. It's just that there are also so many bands doing it better than this.
None of the songs here are terrible. They are not going to offend anyone, but that's half the point. This is the very essence of safe music. It's like Coldplay's first album, but without the teeth or invention. It's like every other early-nineties also rans - The Mock Turtles, Flowered Up, The Farm etc, but without the songs.
Children Of The Weekend starts on the wrong foot and continues to hop along limply on said foot for the remaining three minutes. The lyrical content barely needs explaining such is the lack of subtlety in the title, but in essence it decries the nine-to-five culture and general futility of hum drum life. Again, this has been done before, only better. It's one-part mellow, grooving bass; one part jangly guitars; one part airy-fairy vocals. If it came on the radio you wouldn’t turn it off, but then again, who is going to put it on in the first place? This is a song in desperate need of a big chorus, or shift in dynamic, or middle eight, even a key change. Anything at all really to lift it above the ploddingly mediocre. Needless to say, it doesn't happen.
What follows are two B-sides that sound like B-sides and – oh joy – another version of the opener. In fairness it does seem a little fresher with a slightly funky, more dance-friendly vibe to it, but even the facelift can’t hide the fact that it is the same old song.
On the plus side, the production is pretty decent, the packaging lovingly constructed and the enthusiasm obvious. Juma are band you will find yourself desperately wanting to like, and at some point in the future may well do. But for now a re-group followed by intensive session of songwriting (and prayer session to the great Gods of inspiration) is probably what is in order.
Harmless, but pointless.