It’s hard not to question whether all of Jaret Reddick’s music in the past has been entirely worth it. It’s hard to argue with Bowling For Soup and how they’ve earned a legitimate place among the pop-punk pantheon, but looking at Jarinus and a lot of his solo work, the distinguishing features become increasingly difficult to zero in on. That’s not to say they don’t have merit or quality, but broad, goofy pop-rock in this vein can lack a certain amount of spark after a while, especially when it’s spread as thinly as Reddick admittedly has in the past. So it can be a little bit disconcerting to see another new project starting up with Kelly Ogden of The Dollyrots, another band who’ve previously lacked in dimension, and given how lead single Here We Go was exactly as shallow and sweetened as the reputations of the two have previously established, the idea of an entire collaborative album between them can start feeling a bit dubious.
Really though, the results aren’t quite that bad. Sure, what Sittin’ In A Tree ends up is pretty predictable as far as both artists go, but when that effectively comes down to a crop of innocent, sugary love songs that’s clearly not meant to have much deeper resonance than that, this is harmless enough. It’s certainly listenable, and while the throwaway nature can seep through in just how much the thematic conceit is recycled over and over again, for a side-project that’s not meant to amount to much more, it’s hard to deny that what Reddick and Ogden have got here is at least likable, even on an incredibly base level.
That’s quite an important stipulation too, as on the whole, Sittin’ In A Tree feels like a very obvious, at times truncated step from where both artists had originally come from. Pop-rock cheese like this comes part and parcel with both of these artists, but even compared to what they’ve done in the past, tracks like Here We Go and Yourself Again feel like incredibly simplified versions of that previous work, relying on safe, simple pop-rock instrumentation that never displays too much edge and pushes its brightness and goofiness right to the fore. It can definitely feel a bit tart even by their standards, particularly in the rollicking country-pop of Doin’ Alright, but more often than not, when the focus on big, uncomplicated hooks blares out to the extent that it does, these are pop-rock songs that at least have enough levity to make them work. Something I’m Not and How Did We Get Here feel the most apt at holding that middle ground between Bowling For Soup’s typical goofball charm and the big, romanticised ‘80s pop of a band like The Cars, and even if the dalliances with disco and new wave on That Night and You Win respectively can spark more than a couple of cringes here and there, there’s enjoyment to be had from them, and for a pair of artists making it this clear how much fun they’re having, it would take a killjoy of the highest order to hold it against them. It’s all far from high art or anything of the sort, but there’s charm in its simplicity that’s nice to have around.
As for the writing, that’s pretty much in exactly the same boat too, embracing a sense of simplicity that might run its course it bit too early, but rarely is the source of anything too objectionable. The dynamic that Reddick and Kelly adopt of arguing lovers can get a bit old when it’s worked around as often as it is, and Make Her Miserable does feel a bit overly mean-spirited for an album prioritising levity and light as much as this is, but for the most part, if you go in expecting big-hearted sweetness above anything else, that’s pretty much what you’ll get. It’s definitely most present on the acoustic cuts like Butterflies (The Crush Song) and Let’s Just See How It Goes which both have a starry-eyed innocence to them, but Rocket Ride and That Night are similarly lovestruck in typically youthful way, and Daddy’s Girl serves as a tribute to Ogden’s late father which, even in breaking away from the central theme, has the sweetness and tenderness to justify its inclusion. On the whole though, it’s all totally shallow with the musical and pop culture references that are essentially customary for anything even remotely associated with Bowling For Soup, but it’s definitely not bad, and for what it is, Reddick and Ogden give convincingly endearing performances through and through.
That’s not to oversell this by any means, especially with the fact that a project like this is destined to have next to no longevity in a wider context, but Sittin’ In A Tree seems to be complicit in that knowledge, and therefore looks to make itself as enjoyable in the short term as possible. Whether it totally hits that is tough to say – it definitely goes on a bit too long and could do with a few more ideas to freshen things up – but it’s a harmless enough listen that does have a fair few enjoyable moments. Reddick and Ogden’s clear chemistry definitely helps, but between songwriting and presentation that keeps the sweetness and light up almost consistently, it’ll probably be divisive, but it’s worth a go regardless.
For fans of: Bowling For Soup, The Dollyrots, Patent Pending
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sittin’ In A Tree’ by Jaret & Kelly is released on 22nd March on Whiskey Joe Records.