You can’t judge a book by its cover, but one of the great sports of music fandom is trying to guess what a band will sound like based on its name. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended in my encounter with Jackie & the Stabbs last Thursday at the Newport, where the new Columbus combo opened for Company of Thieves.
There’s nothing offensive about Jackie & the Stabbs, per se. They seem like nice enough people, and they play nice enough music. But that’s exactly the problem. They’re called Jackie & the Stabbs! Where is the violence? Where is the spark? Where are the hooks plunging mercilessly into my consciousness?
It’s not just a nomenclature problem, mind you. Lots of bands have misleading names, but that isn’t keeping me from listening to Joy Division or Vampire Weekend. I can appreciate irony, and I can tolerate obliviousness. Let me make this perfectly clear: I am not complaining because I thought Jackie & the Stabbs would be one kind of band and they turned out to be another.
I am complaining because their music is unapologetically, dreadfully dull. It doesn’t go anywhere or do much of anything. It’s just there. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond besides swaying aimlessly, dreaming about some other band.
The sound they’re attempting is an indie-lite amalgamation of something like Cat Power and U2 teaming up to write Motown girl-group ballads. But not the tortured-soul Cat Power or the blindly ambitious U2 so much as the warmed-over latter-day versions of those artists. Jackie (a.k.a. Chelsea Burgin) graced these song sketches with zero heart-stopping bursts of melody and numerous awkward postures.
At times they reached instead for the sort of straight-laced pop-rock that Thursday’s Newport headliner Company of Thieves delivers with such fire. But the Stabbs offered no such burn, or even that unresolved smoldering that leaves the rest to your imagination.
Another fun game is speculating about how opening acts were chosen, and if a number of the band members didn’t work for PromoWest, the company that runs the Newport, I might wonder how they got such a prime gig. Perhaps their homeys should send them back to the drawing board before sticking them in front of a sold-out Newport crowd again.