Luscious Jackson and the Magic Hour

Chris Daly invented the mullet. Semi-obscure hip-hop trivia time, kids, and no Google cheating. Who was the first band signed to the Beastie Boys’ ill-fated Grand Royal label who incidentally just...
By    November 21, 2013

Luscious+JacksonChris Daly invented the mullet.

Semi-obscure hip-hop trivia time, kids, and no Google cheating. Who was the first band signed to the Beastie Boys’ ill-fated Grand Royal label who incidentally just released a brand, spanking new album? Here’s a hint: they played the high school band in the “Dance Fever” episode of “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.” No? Still too Gen-X-y for you?

The answer, of course, is Luscious Jackson, but for those unfamiliar with this coolest of the cool chicks groups from the 90s, perhaps a little history lesson is in order. Formed way back in 1991 and named after the former Philadelphia 76er, Luscious Jackson started as a duet comprised of Jill Cunniff (vocals, bass) and Gabby Glaser (vocals, guitar) before quickly adding Vivian Trimble (keyboards, vocals) and Kate Schellenbach (percussion and various things banged with sticks). Cunniff and Glaser dropped a demo financed with tip money from their day job at a restaurant before shoring up the line-up. The girls ran around in the same circles, hitting up NYC’s punk and burgeoning hip hop clubs back as the scene was starting to blow up, so forming a band seems like a logical conclusion for this gang.

Schellenbach was the Beastie Boys’ original drummer back when they were a punk band themselves, hence the connection to the band and subsequent signing to Grand Royal. Their debut, In Search of Manny, is considered by many to be the perfect 90s synthesis of numerous musical genres, ranging from hip hop and punk to rock ‘n roll and samba, reggae and funk to jazz and swing. Natural Ingredients was a perfect follow-up, with its similar, steamy vibe. The fact that most of the songs featured in the aforementioned Pete & Pete didn’t hurt, either. Fever In, Fever Out came next and provided the band with their first and only (so far) top 40 hit, “Naked Eye.” Shortly thereafter, Trimble bounced to do her own thing, and the band put down one more on wax, Electric Honey. Citing waning label interest and a desire to start families of their own, the band called it quits back in 2000.

Over the past few of years, however, the group pulled a Blues Brothers and put the band back together. In 2006, LJ recorded a children’s album that has yet to see commercial release, but this clearly sparked something, as everyone except for Trimble got back together to release Magic Hour this year. Utilizing the magic of Pledgemusic, the entire album was performed and recorded using crowd sourced funding, and the results are pretty impressive.

LJ has always had a knack for combining disparate sounds into a unified whole that somehow just ooze New York summer nights. No sound is out of place or forced to fit, they just seem to run together in natural and logical formation. In 2013, this approach seems to be the norm, but back when hip-hop still hadn’t even turned 10 years old, this was a bold move. The results speak for themselves.

If you didn’t care for Luscious Jackson back in the day, odds are you won’t change your mind with Magic Hour. Of course, if you didn’t care for LJ back in the day, we probably can’t be friends, but that’s an entirely different conversation. These are songs of sweaty nights spent at house parties, grooves made to encourage ass shaking. Their infectious beats are undeniable. I suppose one could listen to, say, In Search of Manny and NOT feel an indescribable urge to get it on, but I would wager said listener is hard of hearing at best, soul dead at worst.

For those who don’t break when they bend, Magic Hour picks up right where the band left off. There is no chasing of some current sound, simply a group of ladies getting their groove on like Clinton still was in the White House. Sure, the vocals are a tad more weathered and gone are the copious samples (those cost mon, hun, more than Pledgemusic typically can raise, I’d imagine), but that’s made no dent whatsoever in their vibrancy. While lyrical topics range from the allure of a perfect ass (the perfectly named “#1 Bum”) to a New Yorker’s contemplation of the non-walker-friendly nature of the L.A. (“3 Seconds to Cross”), the connecting factor throughout is an obvious and contagious joy of life mentality. Songs like “Show Us What You Got” and “Are You Ready?” perfectly encapsulate this sentiment. Sure, the world might be burning down around us all, but are you ready to just fucking dance the night away? That’s the real message the LJ brings to the world.

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