Listening to So Long Scarecrow, the new record from Scarling, is like a parent seeing their teenager all grown up and driving off in the car for the first time or hand in hand with their significant other. It’s a funny feeling that’s alternately slightly sad and satisfying. It’s like you just know things have now changed and they’ll never be the same.
The band has changed dramatically since Jack Off Jill. Whereas before, the sound was harder in places with Jessicka often screaming, sort of like an aural transcript of a psychiatric session. This is a more controlled sound and overall, it just sounds like a confident, more polished band. Jessicka and guitarists Christian Hejnal and Rickey Lime are now joined by drummer Beth Gordon and new bass player Derik Snell.
The first track, “Hello London”, is a mid-tempo track with the now-familiar, Scarling-fuzzy guitars and a precious vocal from Jessicka. It’s kind of like sleep-walking in a crystalline forest.
The laser-tipped guitars are slicing and dicing in “City Noise” and they are well utilized on this track, slipping in briefly to thrust and parry, only to dance away after drawing blood. Nice production on this cut (also by Hejnal). A modest guitar sequence kicks off “Broken Record”, along with a subdued vocal by Jessicka. Then those sinister guitars come calling again, riding shotgun with a great chorus.
The fuzzed-out chords on “(Northbound On) Cahuenga” are almost Bowie-esque in the verses (Diamond Dogs era). A short melodic intro (“Teenage Party Letdown”) precedes probably the best cut on the record, “Bummer”. This is the most upbeat (musically) that the band is on the record, and you can do nothing but yield to your feet and dance. Just slightly less bouncy is the following cut “Manorexic”, where Jessicka sounds the best on the whole record.
“In the Pretend World” is one of those morbidly beautiful Scarling songs, touching but slightly offsetting, yet utterly compelling. Equal to the challenge in that category is “Stapled to the Mattress”. “Like a Killer” and “Caribou and Cake” are good songs but fail to hit the lofty heights of their cousins. Fortunately, “We Are the Music Makers” comes crashing in to save the day. The title cut gently turns us out, like the image of a waving figure at the back of a bus as it heads out of town.
Scarling is a far better band than Jack Off Jill ever was, despite all the wonderful memories and great songs from the latter. Jessicka has learned to use her gorgeous voice to its fullest and it is showcased by excellent material. The Christian Hejnal / Rickey Lime guitar tandem sparkle throughout giving the songs a constant live-wire surge.
So Long, Scarecrow is a tremendous record by a band that is only beginning to realize how great their talent is.