Unfairly tagged as a Latin-only bar band, Tucson-by-way-of-Nogales' The Jons' 2002 stunning debut, Wine at the Hilltop, showed the group had depth and talent beyond the norm for their age. Barely breaking the 20-minute mark, the EP left fans wanting more, and this week, the Jons are re-releasing the CD as a near-hour-long version with bonus tracks from recording sessions, as well as remixes and live cuts.
Original singer and bandleader Sergio Mendoza wrote the bulk of these tunes, showcasing his ability to write a timeless pop hook with universal themes and odd characters. The album starts off with a screaming rollercoaster ride of horns, guitars and drums, only to have the music stop and a voice announce, "We're gonna try different things." After the breakneck "My Mind Is Wandering," a nod to their ska past, we take a wild ride through the rumbling streets of Nogales, crossing the train tracks looking for trouble, only to end up being cornered all night by an older (I'm assuming) stripper called Crazy Mae.
Hilltop then reverts to lovelorn, hand-clapping, Mersey Beat numbers, followed by the last two tracks featuring The Jons' signature horn-driven, retro, psych-pop-rock. Mendoza is back on the hilltop with friends, "living in a small world," thinking about his future and wondering if his girl will love him "on the other side." Of the border? The afterlife? He leaves that up to you to decide.