I don’t do too many non-metal reviews these days. I generally have a hard time coming up those creative $2 words to describe how moved I am by anything that doesn’t pound me over the head with power. And I’m also usually pretty bad at comparing an artist to other groups. You’ll be hard pressed to hear me say something sounds like “Japanese Hardcore meets the Monkees on a drug binge with Husker Du” or something similar. However, there are times when a pop or rock record just falls right within my wheelhouse. Judge Jackson’s Drive is one of those albums.
If you’re looking for your music to challenge you intellectually or offer up some crazy time changes to show off the college music classes the guitarist took, then you can move on to your nearest prog-rock band and forget you ever saw this. Judge Jackson is not that — and that’s not a bad thing. What they are is pretty damn catchy, straightforward rock-n-roll. The majority of Drive is for middle-aged dudes sitting on their porch with a nice cold brew bullshitting about the girls they would totally do, you know…if they weren’t sitting on their porch drinking.
I’m a big stickler for pairing up the right music with the right singer, and Judge Jackson does that well, with their frontman, Todd McTavish. The first thing you notice is that McTavish pulls off the sound perfectly. He’s got a great rock voice with a bluesy undertone and can definitely belt out those poppier harmonies. And the riffs in songs like “Drive” and ”Pickin’ Me Up” would fit in relatively well within the context of rock radio these days.
Drive is Judge Jackson’s fifth record, and they’ve had some success with their songs being used on various sports shows since they have that energetic, between-innings-highlight-package feel. And apparently they have the theme song to Victory Lane, a NASCAR-related show on the Speed network. I’m going to trust them on this since I’ve never even once had a desire to learn who’s driving the Always with Wings sponsored 64 car (although I regularly pour a quart of milk over my head for the hell of it).
Yes, the album sounds a bit like it was recorded in 2002 rather than 2010 (and is it coincidence that I totally hear the Cars in the verses of the title track?) but it’s still catchy as hell and the band would work nicely in a couple hundred person venue. They even toss a little country ditty (”Meant To Be”) in at the end for a little change. Drive isn’t going to change the scope of music, but it isn’t meant to. So here’s what you do: You put your top down (ladies, change “put” to “pull”), open up the sun roof or stick your damn head out the window if that’s all you can do, crank this shit up and cruise along. That’s pretty simple, ain’t it?
Check them out on their MySpace page. And while you’re at it you must take a look at the awesomeness of bassist Brian James who looks like he just stepped out of a .38 Special video. Rock on.