On August 13th, Los Angeles post-punk band Provoker released their debut album, Body Jumper. The followup to their breakthrough Dark Angel EP, Body Jumper sees the band polish their sound and smooth out some of the edges (don’t worry, the post-punk edge is still there), letting their music become more reminiscent of Joy Division and The Cure. Overall, it is a solid project from a solid band that deserves more description. First, though: the band’s history is quite interesting.
Jonathon Lopez, one of the founding members, “initially launched the project as a vehicle to explore composing for film.” Around 2018, Lopez met singer and lyricist Christian Petty “at a horror screening.” Petty “writes each song from the perspective of a different character,” which at times makes the album feel ever so slightly disjointed, but that’s not a bad thing. The lyrics are all interesting and well thought-out, they just don’t necessarily connect to each other. But – say it with me now – not every album is a concept album. The connections in the songs on Body Jumper are sonic, and all the songs belong on this project.
It makes sense that the lyricist/vocalist was brought in after a horror screening. Some of the themes discussed are pretty grim. On “Bugs & Humans,” which “chronicles a steady descent into madness,” Petty tells the story from both a child’s perspective and “the perspective of a thoroughly alienated adult.” At the end of the song, there is a monologue about how the narrator’s friend – to be clear, not the narrator of the song, just the narrator of this monologue – Samuel was beheaded with a switchblade. Whether or not that act was carried out by the narrator of the song is left up to the listener’s imagination, which is unsettling in all the right ways.
It also makes sense that the project was initially founded as a vehicle to explore film composition. Some of the musical motifs feel theatrical, and most of these instrumentals could very easily soundtrack scenes in various motion pictures. Moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles was not only useful in developing the sound, but it also will likely help Provoker find great music synchronization opportunities for their songs. Another aspect of Provoker’s music that hints at their film composition roots is the little flourishes or accent pieces that are present in most songs on Body Jumper. There is a synth line on “Re-Per” that appears every once in a while to get wedged in the listener’s brain, and there is a synth pad on opening track “Vehicle Dissolve” that changes the entire energy of the song. Not all of these accents are synthesizers, but most of them are.
Though that is not meant to discount the guitar, drum, and bass work on this project. Lyrically and vocally, Petty fits the mould of the prototypical post-punk frontman. The band’s use of synthesizers is exceptional, but where most of the post-punk energy is found is in the guitar. That should be obvious, given post-punk’s roots, but there have been so many different variations on post-punk over the years that it’s hard to keep track. There is always a driving guitar line, and it typically sounds like it’s being played on a bass. Provoker is not an exception to this rule. However, their overarching guitar lines (the higher ones that makes them sound like The Cure in a sense) feel less derivative. There is some fantastic guitar work here, and it would be a disservice to the band to not mention it. That’s not to say the bass and drums aren’t powerful in their own rights. But, as with most post-punk, the power is found in the guitar.
Body Jumper may potentially alienate some day-one fans in the same way Fall Out Boy’s Infinity On High felt like they were becoming too polished and not “punk enough.” Body Jumper could be viewed as a band “selling out” and forgetting their roots in order to reach a wider audience. I disagree with both of those sentiments, as there is still very much the post-punk energy and post-punk themes on this album. The only thing that is polished is the production, which, quite honestly, makes most of these songs better. The better a song sounds, the better it is. Unless, of course, the goal is to make it sound “bad.” But even then, does it really sound “bad?”
That’s just getting off-base. Body Jumper sounds awesome. It is well-written and well-performed post-punk, and you should definitely give it a listen at the link below. Provoker will find themselves on the road soon as well (find their itinerary here), so give them a shoutout and go see the show. I imagine their shows would be phenomenal. As always, let us know what you thought about Body Jumper!