By Jameson Raid
The debut full-length from Leeds' The Jameson Raid takes much of its lyrics from contemporary American poetry. Surprisingly then, it's not in the least pretentious, as the groovy, crunching rock of 'Do As You Please' makes clear right from the start.
Like all the best songs on 'Time Burn,' 'Do As You Please' takes one short, hook-packed segment of music, and repeats it for 99% of the song. Not only does this make full use of this song's highly addictive, industrial-tinged drumbeats, but it gives the listener the space to fully appreciate 'Do As You Please's two greatest strengths: frontman's John Hunter's voice, and the lyrics.
Hunter has a very charismatic and soulful voice that only intensifies when he warbles his way towards the higher notes. The lyrics are, understandably, imagery-packed, intriguing and very neatly put together. The lyrical and vocal combination is more than enough to hold the listener's surface interest whilst they tap their foot to the underlying beat. A fantastic start to the album.
This album's second offering is equally accomplished. For a song with such a pompous-sounding title, 'Opus To The Wanting' is, again, surprisingly down-to-earth. With a chorus of warm-hearted, straightforward lyrics articulated in fittingly unshowy style, 'Opus To The Wanting' is a song that'll gently work its way into your affections.
Like 'Opus To The Wanting' and 'Do As You Please,' 'Talisman' ticks over during the verses, with only the occasional, acoustic guitar flourish punctuating its hypnotic drumbeats. However, things liven up on the chorus, as Hunter turns out vocals that are pitched and paced for maximum addictiveness, over a backdrop of showier, sparkly-edged riffs.
The emotion in Hunter's voice, coupled with the optimistic musical sheen, makes for an engaging listen.
'Feast Bells' and 'Julie Christie' are the first songs on this album that fail to grab the listener. 'Feast Bells' loses some charisma due to Hunter's decision to sing in broken, disjointed fashion. It may compliment this song's twitchy, country and western rhythms, but it also prevents Hunter's voice from building any real depth.
The rattling, tinny-edged guitars of 'Julie Christie' also takes the edge off Hunter's voice. This wouldn't be so much of a problem, if they provided a hook equal to Hunter's vocals. Unfortunately, they don't, and this song suffers as a result.
'Feast Bells' and 'Julie Christie' also both lack the lyrical simplicity that characterises 'Do As You Please' and 'Opus To The Wanting.' Consequently, you'll struggle to make an emotional connection with either of these songs.
'Damn The Alarms' goes someway towards reclaiming lost ground, although Hunter still sings half of this song in that broken vocal style that does nothing for him. 'Damn The Alarms' emphasises the folkish influences lurking beneath The Jameson Raid's surface, with flashes of distinctly country and western tambourine, violin and springy chords thrown into the mix.
'Damn The Alarms' has all the foundations in place, it's just missing that final layer of killer vocals and lyrics.
'Yellow Rose' is all about the chorus. It offers verses of dreamily distorted vocals layered over a rich musical landscape, that suddenly clarifies into a deep, singular vocal strain and some of The Jameson Raid's finest lyrics. The chorus turns around the simple poetry of "nobody gave you a yellow rose / they couldn't find you, I suppose." When laid over a sublimely beautiful musical backdrop, it's surprisingly moving.
'Ochre & Amber' has a more varied, harder-rocking sound than much of this album, with instrumental passages that successfully hold the listener's attention. The Jameson Raid's usual bright chords are blended with whining slide-guitar and an infectious, hand-clapping beat that again brings out the country and western tinge to the band's sound. Combined with the deep strains of Hunter's voice, 'Ochre & Amber' strikes just the right balance between sublime, toe-tapping melodies and edge. This is one easy listening song that won't lull you to sleep.
The country and western vibe is also present in 'The Flats.' This song features an hypnotic chorus, with a swell of atmospheric synths, studded with whining keys and multi-layered vocals, washing over the listener, and ensuring that 'The Flats' isn't just a pleasantly undemanding, indie-folk song.
'This Time Next Year' adheres to The Jameson Raid's formula of looping a short segment of music. However, in this instance the song is underpinned by a clunky drumbeat that makes for disjointed listening, and draws unnecessary attention to the fact that it's basically the same piece of music played over and over again.
'Sky Watching' is an interesting song as, beneath the top layer of distorted vocals, is a surprisingly heavy combination of thumping drumbeats and churning riffs. It makes for a two-pronged, hypnotic attack, as Hunter lulls you into a false sense of security, even as the heavier beats are steadily pounding your ears into submission.
Album-closer 'Beautiful Solitude' is a meandering acoustic number that builds to a high of echoey, atmosphere-drenched, multi-layered vocals, and ends in a flourish of violin-imitating synths.
The Jameson Raid are that rarest of things: an interesting idea in theory, that actually comes together in practice. They specialise in lulling, unassuming music that often veers into hypnotic territory, with strong lyrics and an excellent vocalist.
If a band who take their inspiration from contemporary poetry intrigues you, then The Jameson Raid are worth checking out. However, if you find any whiff of artiness off-putting, then The Jameson Raid have much more to offer than just artistic connections, and 'Time Burn' might just be the album to change your preconceptions regarding 'arty' albums.