I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to King Phillip for introducing me to the magical goodness that is Jellyfish. I can't tell you how many times I nodded absently as he praised them, but for reasons surpassing understanding it wasn't until years later I finally investigated the two albums they released, Bellybutton and Spilt Milk.
Jellyfish was capable of clever word play, though they sometimes took that a little too far and could be a bit too cute by half. There are no virtuoso guitar solos and the production now feels a little dated. So what is it about Jellyfish and "That Is Why" that's worth remembering more than a decade later? Alice in Chains once sang "The nothin' song sticks to your mouth like peanut butter on the brain." I wonder if Layne Staley was a Jellyfish fan.
Bono recently proclaimed Chris Martin a great melodist. I like Coldplay. A lot. Chris Martin has yet to write anything as insanely catchy as a good Jellyfish song, and "That is Why" is more than just a good Jellyfish song. As contemporary pop music becomes more and more beat driven, it's losing the great melodies that characterized it from its earliest days. Jellyfish's quirkiness might have made them tough to embrace in their prime, but "That Is Why" is a hit that never should have missed. I'm convinced if some label exec could force this song — dated production and occasionally sophomoric lyric and all — could be a hit, even today.
No matter how much the beat-and-bling culture dominates radio, melody still has the ability to charm and entrance. I don't have actual numbers but I'll bet 99% of those who've bought Beach Boys records have never actually surfed nor dated a California girl. Many of their biggest radio hits weren't actually about anything — it was all about "fun, fun, fun" — but nothing ever sounded as good as Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. That is, until Jellyfish.