Shall we have an album of the week? It’s been a while. OK then…
In their minds, Jack are Artists with a capital A, true Bohemians, the last of the great romantics. They rub shoulders with Warhol and the Velvets, are on first name terms with Pasolini and Fellini, discuss Satre and poetry in Left Bank cafes and woo starlets in underground clubs in Berlin. They’re “behind in the rent and ahead in evolution”. They find romance in cheap booze and tragedy in cigarette embers.
They are unashamedly pretentious and faintly preposterous. Their liner notes contain “Further reading” lists. Their third album boasts the immortal line “I am the ‘and’ in Tolstoy’s War and Peace“.
And yet – they carry it off superbly. Suspend your disbelief for 50 minutes, and you’ll discover an incredibly accomplished debut album. The brooding seven-minute spoken-word opener “…of Lights” (yes, they’re the kind of band who start song titles with an ellipsis) is a panoramic, apolcalyptic vision of London on “the eve of the revolution”. “Wintercomessummer” sounds like The Fall colliding with early REM. Brett Anderson would kill to write a song like “Filthy Names”. The Tindersticks are another point of reference, with the string arrangements and Anthony Reynolds’ rich baritone. There’s some gorgeous guitar work, smart lyrical turns and widescreen production from Scott Walker producer Peter Walsh.
The follow-up, The Jazz Age, is equally impressive (my first paragraph above probably applies more to that album). But if a semi-malevolent genie made me choose, I think I’d have to plump for this one. I know bethnoir and tracyk are fans, and former RR-er CraneSpire used to nominate them a lot. The rest of you… it’s boxed, or listen below (and if anyone has the 10th anniversary edition with the bonus CD, let me know…)