Sorry everyone. This might be my album of the year.
If you just listened to the first track, ‘Trigger Warning’, or took his single ‘Problematic’ at face value (“oh, baby I know you want to love me so much, but you can’t, cause I’m… problematic”), you’re probably thinking: wow. That’s kind of repulsive. Hell, he warns for “repulsive content” in the aforementioned opener, a robotic child’s voice urging listeners to avoid the content if they don’t want to face “the challenges of real life”: “sip some herbal tea. Relax. This is your safe space.”
It’s not a new position for Jimmy Urine (real name James Euringer) to be one of my ‘problematic faves’. I first got into Mindless Self Indulgence, the band he’s fronted since 1997, as a teen. I’m pretty sure a lot of people outgrew him when they realised his lyrics really weren’t that shocking – more just tasteless, monotonous. (I’m glad that lyrical attitude doesn’t carry through to EURINGER, at least, not past that eyeroll-inducing introductory track.)
In an interview with Noisey, Jimmy called his music with Mindless ‘highbrow lowbrow, for kids and for adults’ – that probably sums it up best. Through the late 1990s and 2000s, Mindless walled their music with shock factor lyrics and juvenile rage. Which attracted a certain crowd – mainly tweens and teens in Tripp pants and Invader Zim shirts.
Behind that reputation, though, was a legitimate desire to make good music. The songs had hooks that’d stay plunged in you for months and Jimmy’s abrasive, campy falsetto brought an unrivalled energy to their output. So, while I understand people dropping Mindless after outgrowing their lyrics, I can’t quite imagine outgrowing their music myself.
Jimmy Urine is an incredibly talented producer and musician and EURINGER makes it clearer than ever. The album is a kitchen sink of influences – he draws from pretty much every genre, every style. Take just the vocals from the first song (besides that edgy prologue), ‘If It Ain’t You Today It Will Be You Tomorrow’. Serj Tankian guests with angular frenzy and political word-salad verses, while Jimmy spits the chorus with venom. And then there’s some female vocals from a trap sample kit, of all places, chopping and shifting their way throughout the interludes: “don’t give up, if you fighting the good fight”. Everything’s been thrown at the wall, and a lot of it has stuck. That’s pretty much the trend for the whole album – intricate layers on top of layers, all of which somehow make cohesive, catchy songs.
The synthesizers have a vocal, analogue quality. Thick keys cut through ‘That’s How Jimmy Gets Down’ and ‘The Medicine Does Not Control Me’, giving both a freaky synthpop feel that never gets too lost trying to imitate retro tropes. The eighties synths are put to particularly good use through his cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. The way he replaces the dissonances of the original’s piano with detuned, constantly shifting synths is a brilliant move, one that properly shifts the song into his possession. Those synths provide his only backing – no drums, no guitars – an unusually tasteful move on his part. He provides a heady, trembling falsetto that gets throatier, more classically ‘Jimmy’, as the song progresses to the bridge, upping the intensity at exactly the right moment.
His other cover is of The Doobie Brothers’ ‘What a Fool Believes’, and it’s more what you’d expect a Jimmy Urine cover to be like. It’s in nightcore spirit – as fast as possible and gone to hell, with juddering 8-bit synths and the occasional bit of screaming for good measure. Despite his ludicrous production, in both cases he doesn’t fuck with the original’s structure or melody; he gives the songs the space to speak for themselves.
The problem with covering such geniuses is his original material seems a bit shakier by comparison. But even when there are misses, the arrangements are filled with an organic passion. One of the few missteps, ‘Be Afraid of Who You Are’ brims with half-baked ideas that altogether sound like a B-side from Mindless’ If – there’s plenty of potential and it’s arranged with love, but I wish the song were longer so there’s more of a chance to warm to what he’s doing.
‘Detroit and Only Halfway Thru the Tour’ has the opposite problem. It’s great at setting a nocturnal mood with echoing drums, hot breaths (cue endless ‘Black Skinhead’ comparisons) and a bluesy guitar – and one of Jimmy’s most energetic performances; you can tell how much fun he had recording this – but it’s somewhat undeveloped, repeating itself more often than it excites with something new.
Other songs are more uneven, with strong choruses and not-so-strong verses. ‘Fuck Everything’ offers up a (perhaps intentionally?) clichéd, underwhelming verse, but the chorus does anything but underwhelm: blissfully thick synths run against glitchy drums as Jimmy showcases his ridiculous vocal range.
The record’s tone is oddly intimate for the most part. In the lyrics there’s a respect for what came before, as with the occasional cheeky Mindless quote (“I’m not part of the solution; I’m part of the problem”). The occasional bit of self-doubt spills through the cracks too. But the closing songs are full of the bravado we’ve come to expect – with perhaps a bit less lyrical substance (‘Random Emo Top Line Generator’ was written by algorithms, after all).
‘Do You Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth’ is balls-to-the-wall power chords and rock clichés, all for a ‘your mom’ joke. And ‘Sailor in a Lifeboat’ is one of the best (and most accessible) tracks on the album; Jimmy and Gerard Way play off each other effortlessly and could bring life to the most done-to-death melodies.
In the spoken closer, ‘Two and a Half Years’, Jimmy’s father plays himself, and asks this: “It’s just a big fucking mess. How do you expect me to wrap this up and make sense of anything?” There’s some truth to that. EURINGER is brilliantly sequenced but the tracks themselves are uneven, the ideas blown up way too high. But the ambition and energy is like nothing I’ve heard all year. For any fan of dark electronic, this album is a must-hear – it’s a mess alright, but one of the most entertaining messes you’ll experience this year.
Last modified: 28th November 2018