“It’s good for your soul,” the black cat sings, through sunshine and summer rain, fueling the freight train.
This is how Jack Funk displays their track listing for their debut EP, “Good For Your Soul.” About half the words in that phrase are highlighted to signify the titles of the tracks, but the more prominent correlation here is length: For as short of a sentence as that is, the five songs that the quartet offers here go by even quicker.
Is it an indication of how strong and seamless the set is? Or does it all add up to one big empty feeling, a collection of music that leaves the audience confused as to why there isn’t more? Is it an adequate illustration of the band’s strengths? Or does it feel like they left something on the table?
Truth is, all of that is probably true. “Good For Your Soul,” short in stature but tall in execution, shows signs of brilliance all the while never shaking the feeling that it might just be a tiny bit incomplete. The good songs are better than your average funk, but the weaker songs comes across more useless than they should.
Consider the title track. One of the EP’s most solid moments, it slinks forward at a slimy, groovy pace. Guitarists Nick Ring and Nick “Boops” Buppert have real chemistry, one providing spacey leads while the other gives the production a tangible warmth that comes complete with a very unique and tastefully rhythmic texture. It doesn’t hurt that Ring’s gruff-yet-soulful vocals work well on top of such an atmospheric feel, either.
Yet when the funk goes, so does the intrigue. “Summer Rain” is a ballad by way of late-’90s alt rock, almost like Soundgarden having lunch with Dave Matthews band. It’s not awful, but when you have the word “funk” in your name, it’s hard not to hope for just a little more than a slowed-down classic rock meditation on getting clean. Because, contrary to popular thought, occasionally going from loud to soft and soft to loud doesn’t always necessarily mean you’re an elaborate band. It just means … well, that you can occasionally go from loud to soft and soft to loud. And that’s about it.
The same can be said for the lone Boops original, “Black Cat.” Led forth by an acoustic guitar smothered in Spain, it’s probably the best locally-bred Flamenco song this column will see this year … but again: It also veers a little too far from where you want the band to go. Sure, it’s exotic and fun and even a little cute; it’s just not completely imperative. It’s a song that transports you to an evening along the Mediterranean Sea when what you were hoping for was a sweaty night at an underground house party.
And you get that very underground house party with the final track, “Freight Train.” The EP’s best, most energetic moment comes complete with Brad Newman’s funked up bass and a makeshift bridge that breaks the groove in half as backing gang vocals create the type of fun you were hoping might come a few tracks earlier. Ring even has a bit of white-boy rastafari in him, which serves the project better than well, his occasional inflections in tone here adding true flare to an already-jam-tastic production.
It’s a shame there isn’t more of that on “Good For Your Soul.” It’s a solid EP, yes, but it’s also an EP that simply just leaves you knowing these guys can do better. Plus, at only five songs, it’s hard not to wonder where this quartet might go next. Should we expect more classic-rock-leanings? Or will the exciting, interesting textures of “Freight Train” and the title track expand into more complex, more compelling compositions somewhere down the line?
There’s no way to tell now, of course, but either way, count this as a vote for just a little more funk, and just a little less Jack.
** 2 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 **