Culled from that brief turn-of-the-1990s moment when unplugged performances were all the rage, these acoustic radio performances from Jellyfish offer fresh perspective on the band’s stirring, if all-too-brief, two-album run.
Due December 10, 2013 via Omnivore Recordings, Radio Jellyfish can rightly be called a treasure trove of new sounds, as it includes but one previously released track — and this take on their 1990 hit “Baby’s Coming Back” was only issued as part of a now-out-of-print 2002 box of rarities called Fan Club. The songs, mostly original but with a pair of fun covers thrown in for good measure, come alive in the most visceral of ways, putting to rest — just as XTC’s memorable 1989 acoustic tour in support of Oranges and Lemons had — any misapprehensions about Jellyfish as a studio concoction.
Instead, Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning (joined for these appearances by second-incarnation bassist Tim Smith and touring guitarist Eric Dover) sound eternally present, raw in the best of ways. There’s even a little feedback on “That Is Why,” a radio hit from Jellyfish’s almost entirely perfect debut Bellybutton. “The King is Half-Undressed,” perhaps the group’s best-known moment besides “Baby’s Coming Back,” loses none of its familiar propulsion despite the stripped-down format. Meanwhile, tracks like “Joining a Fan Club,” originally part of the immaculately produced 1993 follow up Spilt Milk, finds new depths of yearning.
All but three of these songs were recorded in March 1993 at a Holland radio station; the remainder took place in September 1993 in Australia. Radio Jellyfish closes with the second of its two covers, after Roy Wood’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” as the group offers a tip of the hat to their power-pop forebears in Badfinger with a faithful take on “No Matter What.”