jet black berries

Animal Necessity, the third album by the Rochester, New York band Jet Black Berries, is one of those releases I sought for ages. Even once the internet dramatically shifted the availability of obscure music, it was devilishly hard to come by. I wanted to hear it again because this was one of those touchstone LPs from my first semester at the college radio station, way back in the fall of 1988. As I remember it, the album sat in rotation amidst, only mildly loved by the general station populace. For whatever reason, it spoke to me more, and I returned to it repeatedly during its trek through our new music sections and then into the wilds of the C Stacks, where the bands only meager notoriety were sent. Arguably, this was the very first of the albums that I treasured most at the station: those that almost seemed to belong to me alone.

But, as my knees are wont to remind me, 1988 was a long, long time ago.  While I remembered the basics of the record, I couldn’t dredge up the sound of any of the actual music from the murky pond of my mind. My appreciation for the album was predicated entirely on remembering that I once liked it, which is a very strange sensation. Then, fairly recently, I finally got my ears on it again. I’ve gone through this scenario before with other records, and one of the commonalities is that I’m usually struck at some point during the listening with a rush of recognition. ‘I played a lot of different tracks off this album,’ I might think, ‘but this is the song I played all the time.’ For a notably long stretch that wasn’t happening with Animal Necessity, enough so that it made me start to doubt my own memory of embracing the album all those years ago. Then I got to the penultimate track on the record.

I’m not prepared to argue that “Charles Darwin’s Dream” was one of great songs of my first semester, better or even on par with the bevy of singles that all of us at the station played to exhaustion that fall. It sure hits me the right way, though, opening with a chugging, punchy guitar riff and then unleashing a buckshot blast of stream of consciousness lyrics that blatantly recalls R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” which at that point was only about a year old. Maybe it’s a little derivative, but it worked for me (hell, knowing me, I probably played it back-to-back with the R.E.M. track more than once). Because sometimes a good song is a good song no matter how easily its worthiness and import can be rationalized away. It’s less about the analysis of originality and cleverness and more to do with whether or not it makes a person want to bop their head in syncopation with its racing rhythms. Man, I’m glad I found this record again.

Listen or download –> Jet Black Berries, “Charles Darwin’s Dream”

(Disclaimer: As the text above should make clear, I believe this album to be long out of print and entirely unavailable in a manner that would duly compensate both the original artist and the proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store. It is presented here, then, with the understanding and belief that sharing it for free causes no undue fiscale harm to a deserving party. That noted, I will gladly and promptly remove it if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

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