Myung, Tabor, and Morgenstein have reunited once again as the supergroup trio The Jelly Jam to release their fourth studio album, Profit. Debuted 27 May, the new record is the band’s first since 2011’s Shall We Descend, which succeeded their pair of eponymous records in 2002 and 2004. Although Dream Theater, Winger, and King’s X have altogether kept the Jam from being spread a little more frequently, all three members remain dedicated to the project, and Profit is the clear evidence of their investment: rich yet concise, mature and well-crafted, the record is truly memorable.
The story of “the Prophet,” a central figure laden with a sense of moral obligation to save the world from their own blindness, is a would-be martyr’s journey to open the eyes of Those Who Will Not See. Tabor described the album’s concept as “a fight between progress and jobs-at-all-cost and [disregard for] future payments that are going to have to be made.” With plenty of correlation to modern economic trends, yet taking place in decidedly sci-fi settings, Profit stands as the Jam’s first concept album, and for that reason, Tabor calls it an album “with a purpose [–] not just a bunch of songs thrown together[, but] an entire journey through a story.”
Profit’s instrumentation is largely classic rock band in nature, grinding through heavier tunes and strumming through rock ballads without delving into prog excess – even during instrumental sections. Any solos on the record are structured rather than improvised, and there are no excessive displays of virtuosity – despite the caliber of the musicians represented. Of course, The Jam have always had a gritty, hard rock sound, but Profit has a particularly Soundgarden or Stone Temple Pilots feel to it: the music is largely riff-centric grunge with swaying, throaty vocals. However, those factors don’t mean the record is too simplistic or poorly written. It’s a cohesive piece of writing, constructed to draw the listener’s focus to the lyrical content, keeping the story as its central component via strong emphasis on Tabor’s songwriting.
The album opens with a deceptively gentle intro, and then the driving composition “Care” launches into its guitar-based introduction to the Prophet’s plight. Awakened to the reality of impending danger, he attempts to bring enlightenment to a people who don’t want the veil lifted on their perception reality. The next song, “Stain on the Sun,” is a strong standalone tune, structured primarily on acoustic guitar. This is the second chapter of the Prophet’s journey, in which he recognizes that mundane living can obscure an individual’s ability to “think outside [his] own existence,” breeding the kind of self-centeredness that the Prophet’s message is directly targeting.
From there, “Water” enters with a dreamy 4/4 intro, before swaying into big 6/8 with deep Whammy stabs. “Stop” grooves with anticipated chords and strong percussion, its lyrics documenting both the individual culpability of the masses and the possibility for redemption if uniting under a common purpose to stop the bleeding. With several meter and feel changes, varied instrumental sections, and strong bass presence, “Perfect Lines (Flyin’)” delves more deeply into prog territory than many of the other tracks on the record. This is one of my favorite overall tunes, both for its notable vocal work and its unique rhythmic qualities.
Grinding and plodding, the bass-driven “Mr. Man” features a Tabor solo with classic Eddie Van Halen screech and a powerful refrain that lifts an octave on its final repetitions. Another bass intro kicks off “Memphis,” a song with an unmistakeable Stone Temple Pilots feel. The lyrics here document the staunch opposition to the Prophet’s message and his flight from a lynch mob: “When I tried to tell them something’s looking wrong / They said they would hang me, get back where I belong.”
“Ghost Town” moves Profit into a sequence of softer tracks that bring the album to its anticlimactic, even tragic conclusion. The track grooves with steady guitar plucking and loose percussion – nonaggressive kit, tambourine, and hand shaker – with ambient swirls of vocals creating a background tapestry. “Heaven” follows suit with gentle guitars and bass weaving intricate counter melodies, well-orchestrated vocal harmony, and more loose, open work on the kit. This is another of my favorite tracks on the record, with its layers of orchestration and callbacks to the works of Chris Cornell and Gavin Rossdale. “Permanent Hold” is an instrumental tune that fades in on the heels of “Heaven,” moving within the framework of a marching tempo and fuzzy blues lead. “Fallen” is morose and pensive with quality guitar work, lamenting the finish line failure of the masses “letting the money win.” “Strong Belief” concludes Profit with a final accent of whimsical, droning grunge, thematically documenting the retreat of the Prophet and his followers to bide time until their message might be received.
Profit is a brief little album, clocking in just over 46 minutes. Its dystopian story is concise and poignant, painting a sci-fi morality play that not only stands on its own fictional legs (thanks in particular to the album’s liner notes) but that also critiques the life-on-credit mentality that pervades global culture today. Once again, The Jelly Jam have collaborated to produce something that is drastically different from their previous releases. Though Profit seems to have been the brainchild of Tabor in particular, both Myung and Morgenstein are fully present here, bringing their technique and their personalities to the final presentation. It’s good – good enough to hold us over through the long years until the next eventual Jam release.