Los Angeles – With Weird Moons being Jack Name’s second album in two years, the enigmatic artist is displaying the trademark prolificacy of his peers on the Castle Face Records roster. Released this week, the follow-up to Light Show is a short album which explores a variety of niches within the psychedelic genre, while never veering too far off course. Jack Name is the most recent project of John Webster Johns, who has worked extensively in the Los Angeles area under a variety of monikers. Over the last few years he has honed his craft while serving as the touring guitarist in White Fence and collaborating on singles with more accessible and high profile indie-rockers like Ariel Pink and Cass McCombs.
Nearly every track has a handful of ear-grabbing moments and at its core the LP is essentially a pop record. However, the concept behind the songs is about as weird as they come. While this is a brutally simple explanation of the album’s concept, Weird Moons is the tale of a group of dead people, who upon death are flung to Jupiter and become werewolves, constantly seeking out the rising of the Moon Io – after that it is difficult to decipher just what is going on. However bizarre that may sound from the outside looking in, it is actually a very introspective storyline – it is important to understand the context of Johns’ mindset when recording Weird Moons. As he explained in a recent interview with the New York Times, he was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the recording of his Jack Name debut, Light Show. The concept of the werewolves is meant to serve as an allegory for the diagnosis and treatment of his illness, taking some of the spotlight off the fact that these songs are fundamentally about Johns.
Musically, the album blends a variety of nostalgic trips through the history of psychedelia over its quick running time. Some songs on Weird Moons, most notably the leadoff single “Running After Ganymede” and “Waiting For Another Moon,” sound strongly influenced by Ariel Pink, a future tour mate and past collaborator with Johns. The shortest song on the album at just over two minutes, “Waiting For Another Moon” is wrought with emotion as the narrator explains his werewolf predicament until the backing track slowly fades out.
The album kicks off with “Werewolf Factory,” which would not be out of place on a White Fence album, and serves as a bit of an intro song. Second single “Under the Weird Moon” is a perfectly calibrated homage a la Purling Hiss, with wailing guitar solos over the verses, melodically plodding bass lines and a simple beat that is perfect for pounding Budweiser and banging your head.
The drum beat and swirling synthesizers on “Watcher Talk” make it one of the catchiest numbers on the album. The final two tracks see Jack Name slowing down the pace a bit and getting more somber with the mood. At less than a half-hour in running length, this album seems to end just as it was peaking – but perhaps this is a good quality, as the album never wears out its welcome on the listener.
Despite the experimentation in a variety of genres, this pop-psych release is quite streamlined and focused. Unlike many concept records, the story that is told throughout Weird Moons is actually rooted in the reality and emotions of the artist, making it an effective element of the album.