A Personal History of Music, Day 20: “Jennifer,” by Falling Joys

John Scalzi

I think everyone has a favorite band that literally no one else they know has ever heard of. Not in the gatekeepery “I’m so unbearably hipster I only listen to bands that broke up even before they recorded their album” sort of way, but in the enthusiastic “I don’t understand why more people haven’t heard of this band, they’re really cool” sort of way. For me, that band was the Australian group Falling Joys, who arrived on the scene (here in the US) in 1990, cranked out three albums over a few years, and have spent the rest of the time since then mostly doing other things, with the occasional reunion gig, one presumes mostly for fun at this point.

The Internet being what it is, even mentioning the name of the band will have people crawling out of the woodwork to say “Hey I love Falling Joys too, you’re not special, pal,” so let me qualify that my being The Band’s One Fan is a highly qualified thing. They were popular in Australia, to begin; the song noted here, “Jennifer,” was a number one indie hit in its day, and at least a couple of their songs made the mainstream charts. So Australian Gen-Xers, I see you! Thank you for your service. Likewise, I imagine there are American/Canadian/UK fans as well, even if they may be sparsely dispersed. They’re not hopelessly obscure. What I mean, however, is that in my day-to-day life I’ve never met anyone who, when I mentioned the name of the band, was “Oh! I know them!” I always had to talk them up.

Which was fine! Randall Munroe talks about the 10,000 people daily who learn about something that “everybody knows,” and that the best response to people who don’t know what you is not to ridicule them but to be excited that you get to share with them. Well, clearly in my experience, more than 10,000 people daily don’t know about Falling Joys, and Whatever, via direct visits, RSS and e-mail, has about 50,000 readers daily. So I’m really outkicking the coverage in getting to bring them to people’s attention.

So, here’s “Jennifer,” which is my favorite Falling Joys song (although I understand in Australia “Lock It” is their best-known song, which is fine, it’s terrific, too), for its jangly guitars, snappy drums, and story by lead singer Suzie Higgie of a singular sort of girl who moves through the world on her own terms. Rather later I found out Higgie wrote the song about her own sister Jennifer, who would become a writer and editor of some note; she has written essays, books and films, the latter of which makes the song’s observation that “her dreams could be filmed for a motion picture” somewhat prescient. I think that’s kind of cool.

“Jennifer” was a staple of my post-college mixtapes-and-CDs for friends, back in the day when we used to do that. I was always happy to put the song on there and to give my pals something they might not have already heard, that they might like. I guess I’m still doing that. What can I say, I like sharing.

— JS

15 Comments on “A Personal History of Music, Day 20: “Jennifer,” by Falling Joys”

  1. My favorite band only I know about (TM,) Eddie from Ohio, was actually introduced to me 20 years ago by a coworker. Not rock… but I love their harmonies enough that put this song on my kid’s bedtime CD. (Hey Little Man) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFd8ZynLcZk (I’m in Atlanta, but he had gone to school in Virginia in the early 90’s… otherwise I can’t imagine I would have found them.)

  2. Thanks for this. New addition to my Single Name playlist and possible new ringtone for my wife, Jennifer to replace Letters to Cleo.

  3. The band ‘Jellyfish’ feels like that to me, John. I used to describe them as Queen with Paul McCartney guesting and produced by Brian Wilson. Only a couple of albums and some EPs before they broke up.

  4. I assume it’s basically an instinct for your typing fingers at this point, but their other hit was called “Lock It” and not “Lock In”.

  5. For me, it’s a band called Bubblemath – http://www.bubblemath.com/ – to them, time signatures are playthings, puns are part of the pallet. They’re a little profound, a little profane, and a whole lot of fun.

  6. Oh my goodness that song and video have the MOST ‘90s energy. Gritty film filter? Check! Frantic camera movements? Check! Maroon and blue and supersaturation and SO MUCH chorus/delay/jangle in the guitars OH GOD CHECK

    Being one of today’s 10,000 this feels like a time capsule and I love it so much.

  7. As one of those Australian Gen Xers, happy to be seen :)

    Falling Joys weren’t massively commercially successful exactly, but they were certainly known in the indie/Triple J Radio audience of the time. They did have a few charting songs and a strong fan base though.

    I was probably a little young at the time to be into them then but I’ve known them since. Also of note is the band’s bass player Pat Hayes — his brothers Bernie and Stevie were also prominent musos of the indie scene of the time, Bernie as a solo artist and Stevie Plunder (Anthony Hayes) as a founding member of the even more well known started-as-indie but became very successful Aussie band The Whitlams.

    Enjoying the series, nice to see an Aussie band on the list!

  8. I will have to check this out, as I’m only familiar with their second album Psychohum from 1993, not the debut. It’s a shame so much good music came out from 80s and 90s Australian bands that made no impact in the US.

    If you’re a music fan but haven’t dug deep on Australian bands from that era, check out Ratcat, Cosmic Psychos, Kim Salmon, Pollyanna, Bluebottle Kiss, Clouds, The Screaming Jets, The Living End, The Lime Spiders, Screamfeeder, You Am I, Front End Loader, Sandpit, The Mark Of Cain, Powderfinger, Ammonia, Asteroid B-612, Hoss, Even, Fini Scad, The Saints, Crow, Spiderbait, Moler, Big Heavy Stuff, Ripe, and Violetine.

  9. ‘…”her dreams could be filmed for a motion picture” somewhat prescient. I think that’s kind of cool.’

    That is WAY cool. Who doesn’t want a sibling who understands them at that level?

  10. I won a Halloween costume contest (Blues Brothers) for a radio station and the prize was a bunch of random music stuff. One of the items was a Falling Joys CD, which I enjoyed so I know the band, but it did not have Jennifer or Lock It on there, so I will have to check those out.

  11. As a Jennifer, I’m very flattered by this song!

    The one I can think of is “27 Jennifers,” because WE HAVE ALL LIVED THAT.

  12. One nice slice of jangle/power pop deserves another from the secret band club:

    The Pooh Sticks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTCldPGMS54

    Never fails to put a smile on my face…. Happened across them in the early 90’s with “Susan Sleepwalking” on a promotional Stolic CD (Stolar Tracks!) I’m sure they more exposure in the UK – championed by John Peel, etc – but I’ve yet to run across another State-side fan.

  13. @Marlin May – Checked out Bubbemath (at least the one song they had on their official site). Hearing quite a few flashes of “Yes” in there (no wonder they have a lot of progarchive fans) … I like their lyrical facility as well (lots of alliteration/assonance/consonance).

    “math rock” … is that the correct genre? Hard genre to categorize … I think “angular” rock … very sharp at times, playing with time sigs as you say, music that throws your mental rhythms for a loop and tries to make you deliberately uncomfortable. The only band in my collection that sort of fits the bill is “Field Music” … a little more poppy and less prog-noodly, but has some of the same essence:

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