Gary Jules - Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets
Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets is Gary Jules’ second album, but chances are ninety-five percent of you have only heard of the singer-songwriter due to his collaboration with Donnie Darko composer Michael Andrews, which saw a cover of Tears For Fears’ Mad World feature in that film. Shockingly however, Jules and Andrews’ cover of the eighties hit stunned everyone (including themselves) by beating The Darkness and Pop Idol to the coveted UK Christmas number one spot, and selling nearly three hundred thousand copies in its first week.
Paradoxically, Mad World could be the song that makes and breaks Jules almost single-handedly. In the film Donnie Darko, the song’s tempo is slowed dramatically through a sparse acoustic rendition with deathly Andrews production values. Jules’ vocal tones sounded so reminiscent of a young Michael Stipe that many fans of the film assumed the cover was performed by R.E.M..
Whilst most people buying Jules’ album will assume it to contain Mad World plus eleven slight deviants from the theme, they’ll be quite shocked to realise that the cover version is probably the least Gary Jules-esque song when compared to the rest of the Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets album. On the whole, the album maintains the acoustic vibe, but ditches the doomed moodiness from Donnie Darko in favour of a more sprightly delivery. Mad World sticks out like a sore thumb. You can almost cynically sense that its part on the tracklisting was a last minute inclusion to the album due to the label realising they would probably sell fives times the quantity if it featured.
Lasting around the forty minute mark, Gary Jules has concocted the perfect Sunday morning album, utilising Michael Andrews as the album’s producer. It conjures up comparisons with many of the early seventies’ Paul Simon records on Pills and Umbilical Town, especially in terms of high-capo finger-picking styles, and there are rarely instances in which Jules’ vocals are sparse, or lacking in multi-voiced backing. Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets, is certainly a simplistic, yet deeply lush album that wallows in its own calming aura.
You hope that Jules can wither the mainstream storm surrounding Mad World. Don McLean was so annoyed over audiences’ persistence in him singing American Pie as soon as he graced the stage that he refused to play the song live for years, and he wrote that song himself. Mad World is a cover, and whilst it clearly has brought Jules to a much, much wider audience, he needs to make sure he doesn’t start compromising his music to please them.