As laborious and emotionally complex as this process usually is, I found it astoundingly easy, as it was on sale for $12.99 and only took up approximately an hour of my time. Not moving from my bed, I lay with my eyes closed tightly, mercifully alone and immersed in “King of Yesterday,” the latest effort from singer-songwriter Jude (Michael Jude Christodal).
The truth is, I’d been anticipating this musical tryst for quite some time after what I would describe as a short-term infatuation with 1998’s “No One is Really Beautiful.” After listening to “King of Yesterday,” I only hope that I don’t have to wait so long for another date this time.
The liner notes answer fan’s questions as to why Jude took so long to return our veritable phone call of approval given in 1998 after “No One is Really Beautiful.” Jude reveals that he had actually spent countless months recording a “thirty-two song demi-opera … met with stoney silence from the [record] label.” Scraping together what he could of his remaining advance from the company, Jude called in a few friends and favors, and in a whirlwind 12-day recording session managed to piece together what is arguably his best work to date.
“King of Yesterday” is superior to Jude’s prior efforts in almost every category: his song-writing is in top form (heavily influenced by both the Los Angeles scene and the prior prophets who so readily interpreted it for us, Jude never fails to interject his commentary on the Society of Silicone everywhere he can), his wit sharp, his music dynamic, and his voice … his voice! Like a more vocally handsome (I’ll let the pictures in the liner notes do the talking otherwise) and lyrically confident Ben Folds, Jude croons over intensely passionate guitar driven-pop and high-energy funk, often breaking into a falsetto that is notably more controlled on this record than it was in prior efforts.
In terms of his relationship with his audience, Jude is disturbingly reminiscent of a Boyfriend in a Box; you’ve got the feeling his soaring vocals are reserved for you, his proclamations directed straight into your fawning countenance. He seems devoted enough to what he’s saying, after all.
Jude’s musical mastery rests in part on his ability to deliver absolutely devastating sentiment through undeniably upbeat musical spaces. On the title track (which is both the opening track -the original edit-and the closing track-the radio edit), for example, the tone is set in a relatively downbeat first stanza, with the music gradually picking up pace into what is ultimately a sorrowful speed-race. Powerful guitar licks create a backdrop for alternately smooth and jagged vocals, pleading the infamous “you” to turn around, look closer, ignore the faults and stick around for one more sunrise.
He also brings back a forlorn favorite from his earlier days. “I Do,” a striking ode to giving up on long-lost love, is served up to listeners as a decidedly different remix featuring catchy background drumlines and more mellow, breathy vocals.
Other treasures include the fiercely funny “The Not So Pretty Princess,” reminiscent of the ideas to which John Hughes movies seem to cling. When Jude serenades his “not so pretty princess,” one cannot help but recall Molly Ringwald rising triumphant in “Sixteen Candles” despite her, um, breast impediment. In fact, Jude’s entire repertoire (though most notably this particular album) appears to be perfectly suited to grace the soundtracks of the silver screen; he manages to single-handedly capture the essence of fluffy prom-queens, hunky football players, disaffected and beautiful slackers and nerds stuffed into the proverbial lockers of our collective high school conscience. It’s nostalgic, it’s cute, it’s gorgeous, it’s heartbreaking … and it’s accompanying me to coffee tonight.