Review: Juke Kartel – ‘Nowhere Left To Hide’

Posted: May 2nd, 2009
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: March 13th, 2009 via Emporium Music
Juke Kartel is:
Toby Rand (Vocals)
Dale Winters (Guitar)
Todd Burman (Guitar)
Tommy Kende (Bass)
Jay Pinfold (Drums)

Overview: After getting together in the early 2000′s, Juke Kartel began chiseling away at what all n00b bands hope is a path to stardom. The boys worked feverishly, their incessant work ethic the direct cause of better opportunities. Speaking of opportunities, Juke Kartel front-man Toby Rand saw one in Rockstar: Supernova, the 2006 CBS vocal competition whose winner would be the new singer for a dashing roster including ex-Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and longtime Motley Crue drum legend Tommy Lee. So Toby Rand departed Juke Kartel and their Melbourne, Australia stompin’ ground and bolted across the pond. Ultimately Rand did not win the grand prize, however his pseudo-modest third place finish provided Toby Rand and his bandmates with the bait they needed to start luring in bigger audiences, as well as bigger names interested in helping Juke Kartel. Rand returned to the U.S. the following year, this time with the other four members of his band. Juke Kartel completed a series of North American tour dates before shipping back to their home down under; fame awaited the quintet upon their arrival, as Juke Kartel rocked the stages at both the 2007 Astra Awards and the 2007 Australian MTV Video Awards. Despite facing a multitude of glitches along the way, Juke Kartel finally secured a label home, inking with Australia’s own Emporium Music. From there, the gents decided to relocate to the United States permanently, their first stop Seattle where they met the producer of the sessions, Rick Parashar (Nickelback, Pearl Jam). On April 3, 2009, Juke Kartel unveiled ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘, their debut full length opus.

The Good: Juke Kartel readies ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘, aims it at their audience, and fires the commencing shot “Save Me”. A friendly, inviting opener that still has balls, “Save Me” uses its bass-driven verses as stepping stones to the mammoth hook embedded in the tune’s slinky chorus. The rollicking and zealous “Throw It Away” is power-pop punch-drunk, letting hedonism reign for this fun, 3-minute snapshot. Don’t turn your head on “December”, because this reflective storybook track spits out a powerfully enchanting trio comprised of dainty verses, soaring choruses, and one large-and-in-charge hook that will leave you to collect the pieces of your soul in its wake. “Innocence” punches its way forward, rocketing into bombastic choruses; despite the song’s apparent need for speed, “Innocence” is actually quite coy in its ferocity, utilizing serenity during the bridge for added lucidity and dynamic resolve. A fresh take on the fallout of a relationship, “My Baby” is uprising and stirring, serving as the blueprint for a personal course of action. Everyone’s a winner on the heartfelt “Sleeptalker”, an extremely cognizant cut where each performer permeates its soundscape independently. When the weather’s good and the top is down make sure your stereo throbs with the rustic, sun-kissed vibes of “The Closer We Get”, culminating in a flawless and epic arena-inspired bridge. Toby Rand galvanizes “Scars” not only with concrete, purgative lyrics but also with the audaciousness of his delivery, exalting the song’s choruses. Scrappy and eclectic, “Then She Said” is one of the most balanced, user-friendly tracks on ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘. The flames of “On Fire” burn astoundingly bright. “On Fire” is ambient, angelic, and almost heavenly at times with glorious harmonizing serving as its bread and butter; and just like bread and butter, “On Fire” is simple yet incredibly savory. ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘ bids farewell with the zany “Firesign”, underpinned by verses boasting a funky, skip-hopping rhythm section sprinkled with a Bayou zest. “Firesign” treads more enveloping and sincere waters during its choruses, segueing into an exploratory and downright trippy bridge before erupting at the apex of the intrepid foray for a cataclysmic ending.

Hands down, the jewel of Juke Kartel’s crown is “If Only”, which surprisingly enough serves as the first single off ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘. I haven’t heard a debut single this evocative since Course of Nature’s “Caught In the Sun” back in 2002. Already a “five-tool” song and bolstered even further by a dazzling string ensemble, “If Only” is the epitome of elegance.

The Bad: There are only a few glitches which Juke Kartel couldn’t hide. The band plagiarizes The Veer Union bad, BAD during the early stages of “Save Me”, where it sounds as if Juke Kartel took the guitar charts of TVU’s “Seasons” and simply traced them. Juke Kartel seems to nod off at the wheel numerous times throughout tracks 9 and 10, “Scars” and “Then She Said” respectively; luckily, and as expected, Juke Kartel return to pristine form for the album’s penultimate and final songs. The only real problem I have with ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘ is its repeated flirting with melodramatics, forfeiting some of the album’s urgency and passion to mistaken theatrics.

Bottomline: I failed to mention this in The Good-’Nowhere Left to Hide‘ has some sick, nasty bridges that are as memorable as Juke Kartel was meticulous in their design. And you gotta love a rock album whose bridges are, well, rocks. In fact let’s compare ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘ to a pecan pie. Traditionally, there are two common ways to prepare a pecan pie-with more flavored filling and fewer pecans or with practically no traces of filler and ripe with pecans. The question you have to ask yourself is this-do you want a piece of filler pie or a piece of pecan pie? If you chose the former, stick with top 40 radio. But if you chose the latter, feast your ears on ‘Nowhere Left to Hide‘ and enjoy the slab of rock ‘n roll conviction Juke Kartel dishes out.

TuneLab Rating: 9 out of 10