Jimmy Whispers – Summer In Pain (Moniker)
I’m not out to shoot down folks that wanna sing with their synths. It’s not in me to be cruel.
I have to imagine Jimmy. Would he sit in the corner of the club after his gigs, afraid to talk to anyone lest his tongue locks up at the worst time? Is he a chatty bloke, who spills out words to the odd person that sits next to him? It sounds like an ad hoc approach, I know. But it’s not in me to be cruel. And it’s not in me to dismiss Summer in Pain when it sounds this painful.
What I can’t figure out, though, is if Jimmy really hurts this badly, or if he’s just selling himself short.
See, I can hear Jimmy ache when he sings. It’s that strained tone, the nasally kind, the one that waxes and wanes on its own accord, that shakes like a nervous kid speaking at the front of the class. And the wire-thin shuffling drum machine, warbly synths, and bobbly bass loops only augment the shakiness, like a glaring spotlight.
Were I a lesser critic, I’d be writing descriptors like “naïve” and “intimate”. But therein lies the problem – neither one is true.
Consider the latter. In order to feel “intimate” around one or a handful of other people, the two parties in question must share some secret between each other. A juicy secret. The kind of secret that can’t escape the four walls that surround you and the singer, or the bed that envelops you and your lover, or the street corner that anchors you and your friend. But I can’t hear those secrets in Jimmy. “Gimme all your love / I need it deep inside me”; “I wanna change the way I’m feelin”; “Lord, I need a vacation”. (Jimmy’s a needy bastard, ain’t he?) For all the shimmer on the surface, there are no deep waters to dive into. The woes that Jimmy wades in fill a blow-up kiddie pool.
Peter Escott was intimate. He confessed his weakness and surrendered himself to us without begging for our sympathy.
That’s the other big issue that I have with Jimmy, something that doesn’t mesh with the “wistful romantic simpleton” persona that pervades every song. See, sometimes Jimmy introduces the song by talking. “OK, gotta change the fucking feeling,” he stammers at the start of “I Get Lost In You In The Summertime”. “How fucking hard is this shit?” And then, he starts the waffling chords, and suddenly he’s all sweet and wistful and caressing clichés again. Is that suffering? Or just the whining of a little kid pushing his way into Mommy and Daddy’s big grown-up conversations, trying to blow up his tiny probs into their faces?
I’d like to believe the frustration is real. I’d like to believe that Jimmy believes in the universal heartbeat, and that he’s dying due to an “apocalyptic love sickness” (for, no joke, what follows after “Heartbeat”‘s monologue is certainly broken and lovely). However, I can’t escape the sense that our protagonist is trying TOO hard to degrade himself – that every song ends with hiss and bumbling as if to prove just what a nobody he is, to garner our pity and care about his lack of self-worth.
There will be inevitable comparisons around the interwebs to Daniel Johnston, and irresponsible writers throwing around the phrase “outsider pop”. Don’t mingle with those types. They are not outsiders. Or else they’ve just forgotten that Daniel didn’t coast on this wimpy love-sick balladry, didn’t filter the scalding hate from his wild-eyed wonder.
And that’s exactly why I think Jimmy, in this stage, just isn’t ready yet. The bumbling could work, as could the terminally 6-year-old attiitude – but he needs to be honest with us. And he needs to quit that whinin’.