Our first installment of the new Popdose Lost Classics series is an album from earlier this decade by none other than our own Popmeister, Jeff Giles! What was supposed to be a breakthrough major-label deal for Jeff from Columbia Records turned into a modern music afterthought, after the entire promotion budget was spent erecting giant billboards throughout the Far East of Jeff fighting Mothra. While the album did become a cult hit in Japan (Gilesfest ’09 takes place June 26-28 at the Tokyo Narita Airport Hilton), it’s virtually unheard of in the Western world, which is a damn shame, as it’s one of the more unique works to arrive this decade: a cross of smooth jazz, gut-wrenching soul, and acid house, Hot Nights (or Hott Nites according to some bootleg copies) is quite the piece of work.
The album kicks off with the first single, “Let’s Go,”Â which, simply put, is not just a pop song, but a four-minute spiritual voyage. As horns glissando into guitar lines, which sail into waves of both keyboards and timpani, Jeff weaves a tale of “getting away from it all” to a place where “words and mind collide / like a supercollider / inside of a spider”. The transcendent nature of the work continues through rest of the first half (the “Hot Nights” part) of the album, including the rave up “Lover-cize,” a strangely dark re-interpretation of TLC’s “No Scrubs,” and the second single “Just Kickin’ It,” which is sort of like a “Kokomo” for a new generation, except it doesn’t suck.
The “Cool Sounds” in the hands of a lesser artist would lead one to believe it was named in error, as heat pours off all channels in these tracks: Arranged like drenched sheets after a threesome, this music is what Axe body spray sounds like. Jeff Giles knows this, and thus the irony of our existence: that in order to be hot, we must keep it cool. And so he does (keep it cool…and hot). Thus we are given fine points of aural seduction courtesy of Jeff Giles (Jeffduction?): “Keep it Comin'” takes double entendre and slaps it across the face, telling it to make him a sandwich. “My Lady My Life” is perhaps the most deeply philosophical song ever written that contains only the words “My,” “Lady,” and “Life.” And “100% Smooth” sounds exactly like what the title says–sometimes simplicity is the best way to do things.
The album ends with what “Jeffheads” affectionately call “The Parenthetical Trilogy,” with the tunes “Baby (That’s What I Call You),” “Help Yourself (To a Piece of Me),” and the album’s arguable masterpiece (and third single), “12 Items Or Lust (Foxy Checkout Mama).” Both a rumination on the randomness of love, and according to the liner notes, a tribute to Pearl Jam, the lyrics speaks of the sandness of ineffable connections, the turgidity of finding the silver lining in the daily struggle, and the moments that allow us to break free and make freaky-ass booty-love:
My sweet ice cream be meltin’
A feelin’ I haven’t felt in such a long, long time ago
She asks me how I’m payin’
‘Cause if I pay, she’s stayin’
Oh baby, I just don’t know
Like I said, this should have been a hit, but the financial realities of the music business interceded. Among the greatest tragedies was that there wasn’t enough money left over from the Mothra fiasco to make a video for the first two singles. Jeff, though, was able to scrape together a bit of funding to give “12 Items Or Lust” the video it deserved , but with no additional promotion, and MTV already entrenched in its move to an all reality-show format, both the video and album quickly faded away, and Giles turned his attention to his two other great loves, pop culture writing, and the professional Marc Cohn impersonators’ circuit.
For now, just take a glance at the video and let us know if you agree: that this should have been the start of something big.