It's been more than 3 years since I first posted about the pop genius of Jolan Lewis. I like to mention that I was writing about his band as early as 2012 'cause it seemed like it took a lot of the rest of the online world so long to catch up with his brand of musical wizardry. Back then, I was writing about the skewed indie of his outfit Temple Songs. Then, at some point in 2014, that Manchester-based band morphed into The Pink Teens and then, very recently, Jolan Lewis set out on his own -- more or less -- as The Foetals. The debut album, Meet The Foetals -- a title that at once nods in the direction of both The Beatles and Peter Jackson if you get the references -- is out Friday via the exemplary new(er) label PNKSLM. Earlier this year, in the summer, Jolan unleashed a few cuts, like the Sixties-leaning "Fine", all beat era sensibilities put through the ringer, and then gradually more of this fine release seeped out to bloggers like me. The album from The Foetals, Meet The Foetals, is exactly what you'd expect if you heard that last Pink Teens EP. Still, that said, the Lewis formula has been refined and the mix perfected on this full-length from The Foetals.
Shortly after the release of "Fine" Jolan had some health issues to deal with. To not mention those in this review and how they impacted and delayed the release of this debut from The Foetals would be disingenuous; to address them and pretend to know more than a fan like me knows would also be disingenuous. So, in the interest of discussing the music, let's not pretend we have anything to say about Jolan's health beyond "Get Well Soon, Mate!" as, you see, this review is about Jolan's art, not his health.
Meet The Foetals is significant in another way as it seems to be the first Jolan-fronted release to be so concise and focused. That's not a slam on the outputs of The Pink Teens or Temple Songs but, rather, an acknowledgement that he's sharpened things up this time out and seemingly made the experimental bits take the backseat. For example, the stompin' "Nearly" -- ahem -- nearly chimes with power pop hooks like old Let's Active. But if the music here is largely a straightforward affair, on tracks like "Moment" one can hear a trace of the out there charms of Temple Songs peeking through, even as Jolan indulges in an early Beatles-style guitar solo.
Elsewhere, like on "Nothing", the effect is more traditional and Jolan's work here almost approaches what one would call mainstream U.K. indie, even if that may or may have not been his intention.
Perhaps the best track on Meet The Foetals, and the one song that easily ranks as one of the most beautiful things that Jolan's ever penned, is "The World Isn't That Big", a cut that positively aches with longing and hope in equal measure. This one is the sort of thing that I played so much when I first got this record that I nearly diminished the power of the track for me. I said "nearly", didn't I? I still get a little tingle up the spine when I hear this. The sort of thing that perfectly summarizes the unique pop skills of Jolan Lewis, "The World Isn't That Big" is a blissful bit of business indeed.
Meet The Foetals by The Foetals succeeds by doing one thing remarkably well and that is bridging the warped rawk of Jolan's earlier work in The Pink Teens and Temple Songs with a decided conciseness and sense of song-craft that one suspects he was capable of all along. Here, songwriting takes the driver's seat and one can revel in hearing this cat's talents unleashed so effectively. Meet The Foetals is surely going to get Jolan Lewis more fans and that's a great thing. In any band, his work remains some of the best and most inventive indie-pop that you are likely to have heard in ages. Owing as much to the classic songwriting of Ray Davies, Roy Wood, and John Lennon, as he perhaps does to the DIY spirit of Bob Pollard and fellow Manc Mark E. Smith, Jolan Lewis has here, on Meet The Foetals, taken his rightful place as a one of the best musicians we are likely to see in this era.