Imagine this: you’re at the local drive-in hamburger joint. It’s the 1950s, and Eisenhower is in the air. All of the sudden, you see a slick hardtop convertible rolling up, packed with an even slicker group of leather-clad, pompadour-haired boys. Meet Jeremy and the Harlequins, the Brooklyn-based Americana group that’s serving havoc to the nostalgia industry. Jeremy Fury, the lead singer and ringleader of the five-piece, certainly has a look. Whether that look is T-Bird #6 or the slack-jawed ruffian your father never approved of, Fury wants you to know that he is a rebel with a cause.
Since the release of their first album American Dreamer last year, Jeremy and the Harlequins have made it clear that the modern rock soundscape is not giving them what they want. Fury, in particular, finds that there is a lack of authenticity in the electronically-produced, eccentric sounds of today’s music. In many ways, his music is a prodigal return to the classic rock that jolted an entire nation. Fury’s crusade is all about preventing rock n’ roll’s ascension to a mythological state, one that can only be revived through the random access memory of Elvis, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Even though he is filching from a preexisting library of rock sensibilities, Fury has something new to contribute to the genre, and his sophomore album, Into the Night, does exactly that.
The album begins with a power chord buildup that catapults into Fury’s after-hours anthem. He sings, “So I roll down the window and and turn the radio on / Elvis and me singing at the top of our lungs.” A retroactive blending of past and present is introduced straightaway, as Fury and his rock predecessor are lyrically superimposed. His vocals then move onto rockabilly tunes like “Rhythm Don’t Lie” and perfectly embodies the danceable, hot rodding spirit of another era. The track starts off with finger-snaps and a bass line that surges into bluegrass guitar reminiscent of the Stray Cats, coupled with snap-back delays and a doo wop sneer towards an unfaithful woman.
The percussion elements remain raw and natural throughout, and this effect is achieved in songs like “Big Beat” through heavy stomps and claps. This track is like the mid-way hurrah, reminding us to put our feet in and strut until our hearts give out. With castanets, trumpet accents, and a nod to surf-rock sounds, “Critical Condition” is one of the more eclectic songs on Into the Night. It almost feels like a cautionary tale when Fury asks, “But what happened to the boy who didn’t listen?” Without hesitation, he answers, “He became a musician living with a critical condition.” Fury is weary and self-referential as he comes down from the pulp mag energy of the rest of the album.
American Dreamer is a feat to live up to, especially after Bruce Springsteen’s longtime friend and guitarist, Steve Van Zandt, played “Trip Into the Light” during the Coolest Song in the World segment on his radio show. Through songs like “No One Cares,” Jeremy Fury and his posse make us wonder if we as modern music listeners have ceased to give a damn about rock n’ roll and all of its subversive, viscerally uplifting qualities. It’s unclear as to whom Fury is trying to overthrow, whether that is the Viceroy-ridden, double-cuffed Mac DeMarco monarchy or Zedd’s electro house empire. In the age of meta-genres and vaporwave, Jeremy and the Harlequins suggest that going analog might not be so bad. By the end of last track, we find ourselves almost convinced.