Here's to the Losers (Zoo)
Love Jones

By Mark Clark

The first time I encountered Love Jones, the band was playing at a party hosted by one of my wife's friends. It was a '70s theme party. People were walking around in leisure suits or "I'm With Stupid" T-shirts. In the back yard, the Jones boys played their usual assortment of hilarious originals, as well as '70s relics like the theme from "Charlie's Angels."

It was, in retrospect, the perfect introduction to the band, whose appeal is, essentially, High Cheese.

In the years since then, Love Jones has gone Louisville's Next Big Thing, then Los Angeles' Next Big Thing to America's Next Big Thing (maybe). The band's major-label debut, Here's to the Losers, finds Ben Daughtrey, Jonathan Palmer, Stuart Johnson, Chris Hawpe and Barry Thomas on the verge of another breakthrough.

If you've never heard Love Jones before (shame on you), it's hard to imagine what they sound like. Picture a cross between the Violent Femmes and Dean Martin. That might be close. The truth is, there's never been anybody who sounds quite like Love Jones, which is a recommendation in itself.

Longtime Jones fans will find Here's to the Losers is a virtual greatest hits collection, loaded with all the band's best material. And none of the songs ever sounded better.

The remarkable feat Here's to the Losers accomplishes is polishing the tracks to showcase the group's very real musical talents. The band is so funny it's easy to overlook the fact that these guys can play without sacrificing the songs' loose, witty appeal. Oddly, through the clever use of sound effects and other small touches, Here's to the Losers captures more of the spirit of the band's live performances than its last independent release, Live at Jerry's.

"Custom Van," for example, features some beautiful, bluesy licks from guitarist Todd Johnson and a car-crash sound effect that sounds like it was lifted from "Detroit Rock City." "Ohio River" is spiced by some soulful harmonica, "I Like Young Girls" by a little jazz piano.

The album also boasts some terrific new songs, particularly "Li'l Black Book," as good a song as the band has ever penned and "Paid for Loving," which features an intro straight out of Daughtrey's days with Squirrel Bait.

Let's not mince words: This is the coolest album I've heard in '93. So buy it already.