Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Off to the Jacks

Music of the moment is provided by Just Jack, whose single 'Writer's Block' caught my attention late last year, and who have just released their second album 'Overtones'. The group is effectively a one-man operation, being 24-year-old Jack Allsop, a Camden boy who grew up listening to a lot of soul, funk and hip-hop. There is a lot of that in the mix and among recent British music there is a similarity too to Hot Chip's electro-groove though JJ has a greater predilection for live instruments. More notably, his lyrics are sharp and hilarious, sort of Woody Allen crossed with Ian Dury, and he more than makes up for the blotting of Mike Skinner's copybook with last year's nigh-unlistenable 'The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living'. A savvy observer of contemporary life, with more of an analytic bent than Skinner, he chronicles the ills of consumer-driven emptiness and the wan disappointments of boomtime Britain. He has little time for metrosexuals: 'I'm not a young man anymore/But I've got the face of a nineteen-year-old' and 'It's a face he knows well, although it should look less abused/With all these moisturisers and skin products he's used' and he has a pessimistic outlook on his own prospects for growing old and keeping his life together, without worrying about cash and his status.

Allsop has already even done his own track about the ills of fame, through the sprightly dancefloor pop of 'Starz in their Eyes' and the brilliant current single (which is likely to be one of the most memorable tracks of the year) 'I Talk too Much' speaks for all garullous, self-assured men with unsatistactory relationships: 'Sometimes I don't say the right things to make you/Love me even more than you do'. And despite Allsop's manifest discontent, he does at least know the virtue of a good bassline and a jangly funk guitar lick. Much of the rest of the album is less likely to fill the dancefloor, being more of a laidback nu-soul variant with sometimes ungainly rapping from Allsop, who says that he raps mainly because 'he can fit more words in that way'. But there are few weak tracks on the album, and it is refreshing to see a subversive wit at work in British music, that largely-barren terrain peopled by dull beardless youths with third-class arts degrees. Best album of the year so far, and that includes the mighty 'The Good, the Bad and the Queen', of which more later.