tremble clef

Monday, February 05, 2007

Just Jack, "Disco Friends" (2007)

Over the weekend, I listened again to the Just Jack album Overtones, and thought...well, first of all, my general opinion on the album remains that it's okay, but not spectacular. The singles "Writer's Block," and "Starz In Their Eyes," and today's track "Disco Friends" are all worthwhile, and I also like a small bit in the weepie ballad "Mourning Morning": namely, from the second half, when he sings, "I really want you to stay/But I know you have to go..." What I enjoy is the way he carefully enunciates each word in that couplet. To a fault: the words almost don't manage to all get crammed into the lines, whose flow would be improved by dropping "really," for instance. That Jack doesn't do so, and that these lines are so meticulously mouthed -- in contrast, of course, to the rest of the album's lyrics, which, since they are delivered in Jack's North London accent, would often see a syllable or two dropped -- conveys quite touchingly how important those pleading words are to Jack.

But what I did realize over the weekend is this: the album, and Jack, is sort of...square. It's perhaps an odd thing to say about a rap/hip-hop record whose first track includes a couple of drug references, but Jack's persona does seem a bit earnest and Mickey Mousey. Reviewing "Starz In Their Eyes" for the Stylus Jukebox, I noted how strange it was that the song, which impeaches reality TV, yells at the Simon Cowells and Bunim/Murrays of the world for exploiting wannabes, but leaves mostly unblamed the wannabes themselves. The resulting lyric is total pearl-clutching: more a kind of quaint, prissy outrage about this new-fangled thing called "reality TV" and less an incisive examination or even satire of it. Likewise, "Disco Friends" has a undeniable backing track: to slow finger-snaps, a synth line glides alongside Jack's sing-song vocals, until they give way to a robotic voice. But how square is that lyric? A tale of a rich, privileged girl who seems to be headed down the wrong path...because she's got a lot of DISCO FRIENDS! Otherwise known as...DISCO LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! Who make her smoke...cigarettes and...other stuff, which is why that vocodized voice is all distorted and shit, like she's TRIPPIN'! This realization has made me like the song MORE. It's like the hip-hop version of that awesome Helen Hunt Afterschool Special where she smokes a joint, and IMMEDIATELY has the vapors, screams, and takes a fuck of a flying leap out a glass window. She probably had a lot of disco friends too.


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