Album Review (+ DOWNLOAD): Scrambled Eggs – “Jackpot Blues”

DOWNLOAD: Download “Jackpot Blues” here for free (Scrambled Eggs approved):

Some may be asking themselves: “Jackpot what?”. Allow me to clarify:

 You may or may not know that Incompetents frontman, Serge Yared, DJs at the restaurant and pub, Walimat Wardeh every Saturday. From time to time, he brings in guest DJs, often related to the alternative music scene, to spice things up. On the 17th of October, Charbel Haber and Tony Elieh of Scrambled Eggs were selected to give a DJ set. That morning they, along with Malek Rizkallah, went into Tunefork Studios (the studio established and operated by Fadi Tabbal of The Incompetents). The last thing Serge did before heading off to the venue was announce via Facebook that there would be 21 copies of Scrambled Eggs’ new EP, “Jackpot Blues”, available for purchase. Later that night, after a day’s worth of hard work, there they were, 25 CDs, only 21 available for purchase, the others reserved for friends I guess. I got the 17th, to match my age.

 The significance of this CD is that it’s been a long time since Marc Codsi left, making them a trio, and “Dedicated to Foes Celebrating Friends” was them, still reeling from his departure. Now, this is supposed to be the result of months of deep thought and hard work concerning the development of their “post-Codsi” sound and identity, the ones fans should expect from their future, full-length, albums.

What else could I do? There's no cover!

What else could I do? There's no cover!

 -The Look: This was an unconventional release that did not come in the usual package. The only visual is a sticker on the CD itself. The image is of a guitar pedal I believe, roughly drawn, a bit smudged. It’s simple, but in a raw, DIY kind of way that I personally think fits the sound, but we’ll get to that part later. There is no credit to whoever made it, but I’m taking a wild guess and saying Charbel. The text is handwritten by Charbel, just title and credits: “Music by Scrambled Eggs, Text by Charbel Haber, Recorded and mixed by Fadi Tabbal at Tunefork Studios, Beirut, on October 17, 2009”. “Scrambled Eggs, Jackpot Blues”. There is no tracklist.

 -The Sound: Since I have found that there is not really that drastic variety between each track, I will not go into details on every single track, but instead I will just describe the overall atmosphere and my comments on it, overall.

 This is not an album you play during a party. If I were asked to specify a genre for this, of course I wouldn’t be able to define it with just one word, but the words “experimental” and “improvisational” would come to mind. I feel that what this is is “improvised rock” or “free-rock” (like free-jazz but with rock tendencies). Both elements are there. On one hand, this is the kind of stuff I’d expect to hear at “Irtijal”, and most of the tracks are longer than 10 minutes, a tell-tale sign of free, unscripted, improvisation. On the other hand, there are lyrics (well, spoken words at least, since they aren’t sung in the traditional manner), there are rock sounding drumbeats that are fairly constant which is not common in the improvisational genre, and there is also quite rhythmic and repetitive synthesizer pieces. So it is neither purely improvisational, nor entirely punk rock. It is a very carefully crafted blend of both which avoids clashing the two genres, i.e. you’d be hearing trippy noises in one track then rocking out to the next, no, they make them fit into one another seamlessly.

 These are four tracks of eerie spatial reverberations, abrupt synthesizer interruptions, and drumbeats that at times seem to guide the listener towards a certain tempo and other times add to the capricious nature of this sound, two of these tracks with surreal, abstract, and stream-of-consciousness style poetry read to it. Both the poetry tracks reference the titular phrase, “jackpot blues”. The music in each track is similar to the rest in a way, but not at all repetitive. Each has at least one unique element present that the rest of the tracks lack. At times, reverb is added to the spoken word, creating an ominous effect.

 This “improvised music that isn’t quite improvised music” has gotten me excited about their upcoming collaboration with Mazen Kerbaj, Sharif Sehnaoui, and Raed Yassine (and others), “Scrambled Eggs and Friends”, due for release sometime soon. If one of the objectives of this release is to get fans hyped about “Scrambled Eggs and Friends”, then I must say: Mission Accomplished.

 My own Scrambled Eggs analysis:

 Photos of the session by Tanya Traboulsi:

Artist Analysis: Scrambled Eggs

Photo by: Tanya Traboulsi. Logo by: Either Lana Daher or Alfred Tarazi.

Photo by: Tanya Traboulsi. Logo by: Either Lana Daher or Alfred Tarazi.

-Name: Scrambled Eggs

-Members: Charbel Haber, Tony Elieh, Malek Rizkallah

-Former Members: Marc Codsi, Said Elieh

-Years Active: 2000 or 2001-Present

-Genre: Post-Punk, Experimental, Noise, Improvisation

 -History: I really don’t know the intricate details, but here’s all I can come up with:

 In 2000 or 2001, Charbel Haber, Tony Elieh, Marc Codsi , and Said Elieh formed a group and named themselves Scrambled Eggs .

 They released their first album, “Human Friendly Noises”, in 2002. It had a wide influence on the scene and was well received. In 2004, they released their second effort “No Special Date Nor a Deity to Venerate”, which was also highly praised. Near the end of that same year, they started their own record label, “Those Kids Must Choke” and released a third album, “Nevermind Where, Just Drive”, which was described as being highly experimental and unconventional.

 In 2004 (I think), Scrambled Eggs worked on the soundtrack of the film “A Perfect Day” by Lebanese filmmakers Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, later receiving the Best Soundtrack Award at the Festival des Trois Continents in Nantes, France for it.

It was around this time when Said left in order to live abroad in the US. He would later be replaced by their current drummer, Malek Rizkallah.

 One year later, the Lebanese-Israeli conflict took place and so they released their fourth album “Happy Together, Filthy Forever” as a reaction to it.

 In 2008, they would once again provide their services for a soundtrack to another movie by the two Lebanese directors Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, this time  the film “Je Veux Voir”. Later that year, Marc would part ways with the band, pursuing his own project, Lumi, with vocalist Mayaline Hage. Scrambled Eggs would go on to record and release an EP (or single) of two tracks called “Dedicated to Foes Celebrating Friends”.

 Throughout these years, they have played in several locations in Lebanon and even outside of Lebanon, playing in France, USA, UK, and Germany, among many others.

 Recently, they were selected as one of three finalists in John Varvatos’ music contest, “Free the Noise”. Winners of the contest would get a big record deal and be featured in John Varvatos’ international ad campaigns. They were scheduled to go to New York and participate in the finals, but unfortunately couldn’t make it due to Visa problems.

Last year, they collaborated with improvisers, Mazen Kerbaj, Sharif Sehnaoui, Raed Yassin, and others on a record of experimental, improvised music. The project will be called “Scrambled Eggs and Friends” and will be released sometime in the future under a new label called “Johhny Kafta’s Kids Menu”.

 -Sound: I have not heard Scrambled Eggs’ full discography, but I have concluded that they are truly “post-punk” in every sense. They wear a double-faced mask. Look at them from one side and you will see punk, look at them from the other, and you will see experimentation, improvisation, and noise. Look them straight, directly from the front, and you will simply see post-punk, a coalescence of both elements. 

They are no strangers to improvisation in particular, as they have participated in Lebanon’s annual improvisational music festival, “Irtijal”,  in several combinations such as XEFM (Charbel Haber, Tony Elieh, Fadi Tabbal (The Incompetents), and Abdallah Ko), BAO (Charbel Haber, Mazen Kerbaj, Jad Balaben), and others.

 Charbel’s voice fits the genre he sings to. He utilizes it to aptly set the mood of the song, which could be energetic and “dancey”, or moody and “tired”.



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