Jellies is a word that would usually bring to mind a dessert that is fun, colourful and playful. It’s then a fitting description for the debut album from Isle of Wight natives Aaron Fletcher and Tim Parkin, who make up 77:78. Also members of indie psych rock band The Bees, the musical duo prove a penchant for reinvention with Jellies – a smooth, indie-pop fusion of funk, rock and psychadelia. It could be described as The Bees in outer space. Though mementos of their fondness for grooving beats and exotic vibes are infused throughout, Parkin and Fletcher have largely abandoned their lo-fi roots and garage-rock orientation. Instead, 77:78 represents an embrace of slicker production values, fusing a number of different styles into a noticeably modern sound.
The album’s opening track, “If I’m Anything”, stands as an appropriate welcome to the new sonic landscape that Jellies occupies. It begins with a warbling synth that gives way to layer after layer of shimmering keys. A clear, glossy vocal delivery behaves as the backbone of the track, preventing the growing tower of studio wizardry from toppling over. As the song builds, the rock sensibilities of Fletcher and Parkin seem a world away amongst the whirling production that overflows with sonic flourishes and crunching reverb – leaving the listener with an assured impression of a band that belongs in the 21st century. The vibrant energy does not let up in the following number “Compass Pass”, as a bouncing lick of lustrous guitar and tidy brass arrangements bounce off each other precisely. While the steady, level vocals once again spear through the playful arrangement of instruments, the song comes and goes in an anti-climatic fashion.
With suave jazz progression and sophisticated drum work, first single “Love Said (Let’s Go)” glides in as the musical equivalent of a Casanova – smooth, confident and charming. It’s a single that sees the band take a more analogue approach, with a refreshing guitar riff lying beneath a neat arrangement of brass and flute, showcasing more of the band’s instrumental range. With a confident croon of “I’ll take this on my own,” the number stands as one of the more alluring tracks on the record striding forward with a silky mood of production that continues into “Pour It Out”. With a simple plucked acoustic guitar and an array of sonic acrobatics that sound they were plucked straight out of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (1969), the track showcases some of the most attuned production on the album. With an enticing keyboard riff that flawlessly compliments the rich, cool-headed vocals, it’s 77:78 at their soulful, psychedelic best.
As the mid-point of the record is reached, it is clear that the duo have a clear musical formula characterised by glossy hooks and a chill vocal delivery. However, “Papers” materialises as something of a subordinate version of such an approach. With a wallowing and woozy atmosphere, the song once again ascends to a soaring chorus that unfortunately fails to reach the same melodic charm as its two predecessors. The record picks up with the shimmery “Copper Nail”, opening with a rhythmic bounce of keyboards that give way to a groovy, reggae inspired beat infused with colourful mixing. It’s a sunburst of a song that emulates the bright, light-hearted vibes of The Bees during the Sunshine Hit Me (2002) era, proving that despite their commitment of the modern music landscape, 77:78 remain unafraid to unleash a nostalgic flair.
The retro vibes do not fade as the band dives back into the psychedelic with “E.S.T.W.D”, a song that with its psychedelic style and British charm brings to mind Sgt. Pepper era Beatles (1967). With a slow tempo and tender lyrics, the track proves a gentle precursor to what is the most flamboyant track on the record, second single “Chilli”. With its flaming keyboards and scorching licks of guitar, the song crescendos into a crisp combo of mariachi horns and flaming six string magic.
The pair of tracks that bring Jellies to a close, “Situations” and “Wagons”, both work to provide some craved rock’n’roll energy, marking a retreat from the synthetic textures that dominate the majority of the record. With galloping percussion and big-hearted lead guitar, “Situations” is an Americana homage that injects Jellies with a dose of grit. “Wagons” closes proceedings in an interesting fashion, as a swinging number that breaks into a flurry of chiming keys, crazed percussion and a woozy guitar solo, before a tide of gentle brass allows the album to glide to an end.
There is no doubt that 77:78 are a band overflowing with creativity and positivity. However, the musical flair that helms Jellies is not enough to distract from the formulaic songwriting and lack of lyrical prowess. It was clear that Parkin and Fletcher set out to make a record that was joyous and fun. But despite its free and inspired spirit, there remains no real concept that weaves the tracks together. Jellies is undoubtedly a vibrant record, but there is a limited amount of satisfaction that can be extracted from what is little more than catchy hooks and sleek, bouncy production.