Just A Machine, the newest EP from Piqued Jacks, opens with the quick crack of a distorted egg. What then dribbles out is the yolk of six fluctuating industrial rock songs that leave the listener scrambled.
The title and opening track starts with a patient riff that falls right off a cliff. When it lands it bursts through with quick shots of modern punk. It rises high and wants you to wake the fuck up. The sound is very similar to Refused or early Mars Volta and the reader should take that as a high compliment and not a descriptive crutch. The energy continues on “Blackie.” Guitarist Pengulnsane keeps the track fuming with jumpy guitar, like John Frusciante on a good day. The instruments of each player are absolutely all over the place while E-King howls, “Don’t turn away, even if you’re afraid.” I am and I won’t. The group has a calibrated control over their own chaos.
Formed in Pistoria, Italy in 2006, Piqued Jacks have been making their way through America using this year’s six-song EP as their launching pad. Each player has their own unique robot-like alias. Andrea “E-King” Lazzerettl sings and plays piano, Francesco “Pengulnsane” Cugla is on guitar and background vocals, “Francesco “Ilttleladle” Blnl takes the bass and Matteo “ThE dOg” Cugla beats the drums. The members are all parts and accessories to a tall-standing machine and it doesn’t run without each gear turning.
When E-King belts he sounds frantic like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, of The Mars Volta; when he cools down he’s closer to the vocalists of the post-grunge era of a few years back. His lyrics hold a heavy surrealism that paints a picture of impending doom. “Nothing remains of the sun / Except cars’ headlights / Guard duty at the huts / Skinny dogs at the feet of empty slides,” he sings on the final track. Throughout Just A Machine there is a suffocating presence that keeps him on the run.
The first single, “Youphoric?!,” finds moments of calm, differing from the first two songs. It could easily find a home on rock radio if radio still mattered. Pengulnsane lights it up with a crushing guitar solo as the tender voice of a female frees the listener from the song’s constraints. On “My Kite” E-King struggles in whispers over a lengthening distance and harrowing piano. It’s the slow-burner of the EP and develops like a tidal wave. “Amusement Park” is built around a guitar arpeggio that sounds extraordinarily similar to the intro to Jeff Buckley’s song, “Grace,” but no harm no foul. The song still kicks.
The closing, “Tourist Of An Apocalypse,” is anchored by the understanding between bass and drum as they walk, linked arm and arm, through the track. The song transforms, twisting, turning and never getting back to where it once was. The final two minutes of the six minute song is an uphill climb as the guitar chops through drum rolls and E-King pleads mightly to, “Just make sure we save the Earth.” It’s a beautiful ending to a collection of songs by a band that shows promise to take up the mantle of progressive rock and roll in 2013 and beyond.
Piqued Jacks have great attention to song structure and never linger too long in one moment. It makes for a very healthy listening experience. They have a sound that rock fans from every generation can latch onto. They can force you to jump out of your chair and lose brain cells, or, take a long reflective walk around the block.