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9/30/1998

Music > Music Feature

Acid rockers reinvent retro-pop

 

When Officers Friday and Gannon busted hippies in the old "Dragnet" television series, the action was accompanied by trippy, spaced-out music unavailable on any existing record at the time. Boston band Jack Drag concocted something close to "Dragnet’s" freaked-out, acid-party music on their 1997 album "Unisex Headwave." This year singer/songwriter/guitarist John Dragonetti, bassist Joe Klompus and drummer Jason Sutter have reinvented retro-pop psychedelia on their reverb-drenched, flashback-inducing, third full-length album, "Dope Box."

Jack Drag carry the sounds of incense and peppermints and crimson and clover into the ’90s while avoiding clichés. "That’s the best thing, I think," says Dragonetti of the band’s dedication to their unique style. "It may work for us or it may work against us, but I’d rather do that than [be] another Pearl Jam."

"Dope Box" expands on the sugar-coated, mellow vibe of "Unisex Headwave" while taking the band to the next level. "We put the heavy stuff up front," says Dragonetti. "People who are used to the spacier, earlier Jack Drag albums might [be] thrown off-guard. But if you really spend time with the album, there’s plenty of freaky sounds throughout. If radio will play it, people will respond to it."

Dragonetti’s compositions also examine various aspects of falling in love. On the tongue-in-cheek "Sinner’s Delight," John sarcastically sings, I hope we’ll have fun burning in Hell. "Tall Buildings," a song reminiscent of the Association’s ’60s hit "Cherish," describes the point-of-view of ex-bike messenger Dragonetti as he rides through the streets of Boston while stoned.

Jack Drag’s love songs are filled with unrequited longing. "The love songs do have more of that melancholy feel," says Dragonetti. "Everyone in this band has a certain amount of romanticism and sensitivity." That sensitivity comes through in the dark, bittersweet undertones of "Best Friend," despite its Sha-la-la chorus. In the languid "What We Are," Dragonetti refers to "fading love" with occasional melancholy references to car racing.

The car racing element wasn’t added to downplay the band’s tendency to draw on their less-than-masculine sides. "We’re really effeminate," says Sutter. "We’re less likely to break bottles over our heads or crush beer cans than we are to make sure our hair is OK."

Gannon and Friday no longer patrol the streets of Los Angeles, but as long as Jack Drag exists the sounds of sensitive psychedelia will be available for the soundtrack.

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