Elevate Difference

Dead Zone Boys

Critics like to explain that because Jookabox’s David Adamson is from the east side of Indianapolis, he understands poverty, racism, and its symbolism in society. Check cashing joints and vacant strip malls feature prominently on the list of his influences. Perhaps this is why Jookabox appeals to me so greatly. In addition to my own near-Indianapolis roots, I find meaning and take solace in failing capitalist structures: dilapidated mini-golf courses, repurposed gyro drive-thrus that now house wristwatch wholesalers, theaters that seem to double as half venue, half asylum. I could have grown up down the street from Adamson for the ways we internalized similar representations of home.

In terms of fight or flight, Adamson stayed for the former, while I moved six time zones away. That doesn’t mean I don’t go back; increasingly, my roots are more appealing, fascinating to study and even love. My best friend lives in central Indianapolis, and when I visit, we go to the types of places that have inspired Jookabox. I do not fear the depressive shopping malls with only remote-controlled helicopter kiosks to stabilize an economy once supported by Sears and JC Penney anchor stores—the likes of which have since been relocated to more lucrative locations. The last time I was in the city, the only places I went were the ones most people avoid.

On the band’s previous album as Grampall Jookabox (rumored to have dropped the ‘grampall’ after ‘a haunting vision’), the topic of women arose frequently: a near unplanned pregnancy (false alarm!) and the relative toughness of Black women in comparison to the GJ frontman. On Dead Zone Boys, we once again hear about the fairer sex on “Evil Guh,” on which repeatedly Adamson repeatedly sings about his “evil, evil woman.”

More than feminine themes, Dead Zone Boys—perhaps appropriately—contains multiple songs about phantoms and zombies. I don’t assume these themes relate to a particular autumn holiday or horror flicks. I suspect they instead refer to evaporating communities and the terrifyingly dead stares on the faces of Indy’s TJ Maxx shoppers. The Right may have their End of Days, but the Left has its own apocalyptic predictions. They often involve the demise of capitalism and a larger cultural awakening.

The King of Pop also hailed from Indiana, but rest his soul, his legacy ends with already available material in his catalog. Jookabox, on the other hand, seems to have taken lessons from the tortured idol: go forth and make it. As the band’s psychedelic pop rock continues to spread beyond the Hoosier State, I hope others hear the promise of Holidome pool parties in their lyrics. Where you see abysmal failure and ugly facades of once-prosperous businesses, I see space for artistic reinvention.

Written by: Brittany Shoot, December 13th 2009