Who: The Jonbenet can’t help but be hardcore; they were forged in the fires of hell, that is, the fire of the Houston, Texas sun in the summer of 2003. Which is hellish enough — ask anyone who’s been to Texas in the summer. After releasing a seven-song demo and suffering lineup changes, the current roster — Michael Murland (vocals), Daniel Miller (guitar), William Spent (bass), and J. Andrew Ireland (drums) — took to the road in a near-endless tour that helped create a new demo (Five Stories Retold) and a giant buzz in post-hardcore circles. Enough buzz, in fact, to get the Jonbenet signed to Pluto Records, on which they released their first full-length, Ugly/Heartless.
What’s the Deal? Ugly/Heartless is both the name of the album and a fair introduction to the disc’s contents: Murland screeches and wails through a thrashing set of tunes that will get you banging your head, spitting beer, and putting the pedal to the floor — even if you’re usually the headphones-and-a-mug-of-tea type. Under the ugliness/heartlessness, however, is a level of musicianship (mostly on the part of guitarist Miller) that pushes Ugly/Heartless closer to beauty, whether the Jonbenet would be willing to admit it or not. Tracks like epic two-parter “Eating Lightning I” and “Eating Lightning II” showcase the band’s appreciation of tuneful rock as much as their roots in hardcore punk, and reveal a musical depth that goes beyond mere wailing and thrashing. Maybe the Jonbenet aren’t ugly, or heartless, after all.
Fun Fact: To emulate the raw energy of their live performances, the Jonbenet recorded Ugly/Heartless live in their hometown hangout, a Houston bar called Johnny Killed Rock and Roll, which doubles as a recording studio during the day. KAITLIN FONTANA
Now Hear This:
The Jonbenet – “Why We’re Dead” (Download MP3)
Talk: Would you parade your love for the Jonbenet around, like, a child pageant queen? COMMENT
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