Album review: SWEETKENNY – Jennifer’s Box Of Junk

Sweet Kenny

Waterfall Records/TSM [Release date: 2013]

‘Jennifer’s Box of Junk’ is both a title and concept. As song writer/ guitarist Kenny Sutton explains: ‘each song had to be something you would put in a box of junk’. Make of that what you will, but apparently ‘Jennifer’ was both the name and starting point for an album that opens with a Satriani style note bending shred, but eventually moves away from the imposing whammy bar wall of sound to concentrate on some strange lyrics that suggest a troubled soul.

The best track is the instrumental drone of ‘Blackjack Moan’ which starts with a single guitar and drum machine and adds a white noise collage of sound and a soaring psychedelic buzz guitar over the closest Kenny gets to construct a groove.

The problem is that he sets himself a high musical standard early on that he fails to match on the rest of the album. ‘America Hottest Mum’ for example, is a Michael Katon style tub thumping slice of mid-west rock and roll and ‘Blackjack Moan’ is equally good, but the following ‘I Don’t’ Know’ sounds ponderous in comparison and is perhaps meant to reflect a tale of the previous night’s excesses.

SweetKenny’s best moments come when Ken Sutton and his partner his guitar playing partner Scott Schroen gives reign to their instrumental talents and build a drone like wall of sound. For the rest there’s an uneven blend of demo standard efforts such as the heartfelt but clumsy ‘But Only To Find Out’ – which lacks coherence and needs a better vocal – while the redneck slobber of ‘Little Girl’ is plain embarrassing and completely wastes an interesting guitar tone.

‘Used, Hurt, Payback!’, is a dark, diary recollection of a disappointed lover, delivered over a shimmering guitar line which uses a portentous chord change to reflects a creepy vocal.

The opening metal shred of ‘Jennifer’ is also curiously at odds with the gentle opening verse and troubled lyrics, before the guitars rescue the piece.

The album was recorded by long time buddies, the Michigan based Kenny Sutton and Berklee School of Music graduate Scott Schroen who is based inAtlanta, and though the pair have successfully exchanged music files and ideas, the album is missing real drums. There are some clever guitar parts and layered sounds, but the album cries out for a tighter production, better song structure, more consistent vocals and an organic feel

At least the plaintive ‘Makes Me Wanna Cry’ features Kenny best vocal over a hypnotic Eno influenced soundscape. At times you can feel the direction the duo is aiming for in those moment when the music evokes the lyrical meaning, though the song‘s emotional input is hindered by a deadening drum machine. The end-piece of the song cleverly slips into acoustic demo mode in a refreshingly organic finish to an otherwise claustrophobic effort. ** (2/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

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