Dirrrty Pop Review: Just Jack – The Outer Marker

This CD has been around a few years now but seeing as it’s only £2.99 in Virgin at the moment, there’s no better time to get your copy of what has, for me, been one of the nicest surprises I’ve had from an album. Here’s my review of a very eclectic and interesting CD…

You can listen to all the tracks from the album here.

The lyrics on the whole album are amazing, if at times slightly surreal. He’s nowhere near an amazing singer but there’s something extremely lovely about his voice. He seems like a normal guy, yet the lyrics are quite poetic – he was often compared to Mike Skinner, but I think Just Jack (real name Jack Allsopp) is everything Mike is supposed to be, a hundred times better. He doesn’t need a Dry Your Eyes – he’s got a whole album of songs even more moving and certainly much cleverer. Jack may be from London but he’s no cockney geezer.

The title of the first track, Let’s Get Really Honest, is never sung – it’s actually a spoken sample. Jack himself doesn’t start singing til 52 seconds in. Before that the song builds up with extra layers and sound effects gradually added. He has nicked Dido’s bongo sound from Thank You and I’m sure you will all recognise the backing track as that of 10CC’s I’m Not In Love.

Paradise (Lost & Found) was the first song I ever heard by Just Jack, when he appeared on Popworld many years ago. It was a ‘behind the scenes’ on his video shoot in a car park, reflecting the general glamour of his career. I didn’t hear of him again until his album was reviewed in Popworld magazine in 2003 (which told me that he had been heavily praised by the ‘cool’ media but had little public interest) but I hadn’t yet heard enough of him to want to buy it. Buying this album is the first time I’d heard this song in full. It has a nice rhyme of “found” and “ground” in the catchy chorus, a walkie talkie bit and a female singer named Roz James.

The next time I heard of Just Jack was when I randomly came across the video for his next single, Snowflakes (also featuring Roz James), on UTV. Due to U presumably standing for Urban, I’m not a regular viewer so it was quite a shock to find something good on the channel. I certainly wouldn’t say Jack was particularly urban – at least he doesn’t sound tough or very chavvy. Snowflakes was the only song of his I could find to download and it has been on my ‘to post’ list on Into The Groove ever since the site began. The lyrics on this song are particularly great, it’s extremely dramatic and emotional, and I’d definitely call it the strongest song of the CD overall. I especially love the line “instinctive spasm in the chasm”. It’s just nice to say, even if I’m not entirely sure what it means in it’s context. If you ever need a song to be upset and frustrated to, there can’t be one better than this. Violins, pianos, big crashing sound effects – Snowflakes has got it all!

Jack’s London accent is more obvious than usual on the sombre track 4, Deep Thrills. There is a sample from a piece of music called Como Ruge La Candela by Calve y Guaganco. Heartburn is one of my favourite songs on the album. It’s a much warmer sound after the dark songs before it, despite not actually being very cheery at all. It makes me feel quite warm and cosy, anyway, with a nice syrupy electro sound with a chorus making it verge on a regular love song. It could be a rather mellow electropop ballad. Eye To Eye features a singer called Sammy D, although I can’t work out which bit he or she sings. Research suggests a house music DJ. The song is fairly poppy and the chorus could be from a particularly cool and, more notably, good Craig David song.

Contradictions is another good track, reminding me very, very much of one of my topsest bands, Contradictions. In fact, I tend to forget whilst listening to it that it’s not them. It would also make a good theme tune for a kids’ spy-themed cartoon. It also has trumpets! Yay! Snapshot Memories is a rather long track which actually sounds like several different songs in one. There are a few lines and sounds that link the different section, but otherwise they’re all quite different. I suppose they must be representing different memories of Jack’s.

Triple Tone Eyes is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, although the singing isn’t fast, the music certainly is, especially at the chorus. It’s almost techno at some points! The final track, Ain’t Too Sad, is the antidote to Dry Your Eyes – Jack isn’t going to sob about his lost love, he’s moving on and knows it’s for the best. A sensible man! That’s rare. But then he starts going on about “crying all the time” so perhaps he’s not quite as strong as he says. Oh well.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *