Friday, April 20, 2007

Jack - Pioneer Soundtracks

Jack was born out of the fag-end of Cardiff's underground music scene in the early '90s. Which pretty much meant the Square Club - a murky dive that introduced many a callow youth to cheap amphetamine, bad sex and the Velvet Underground. The Square Club was part of a boys-in-make-up clubland lineage stretching all the way back to the legendary Mel's, via Radcliffe's, Nero's, the Terminus and the Lexington.

Waving goodbye to the working-class badlands of Tremorfa, Anthony Reynolds and songwriting partner Matthew Scott did what thousands of ambitious Welsh dreamers have done before them and legged it to the bright lights of London. There they recruited a gang of musical fellow travellers and in 1996 released Pioneer Soundtracks to almost universal critical acclaim.

10 years on and it's easy to understand why it is regarded as one of the great lost albums of the Nineties. Falling completely outside the prevailing Brit-Pop zeitgeist Pioneer Soundtracks has a lowlife grandeur that harks back to Brel and Scott Walker rather than The Beatles and Kinks. Indeed they drafted-in Scott Walker collaborator Peter Walsh to produce and mix the album.

From it's apocalyptic opening track ...of Lights to the lush swirling lament of Hope is a Liar there is a unity and completeness of vision to this majestic opus. It really does feel like a whole rather than 9 songs stitched together.

Subject matter? Reynolds manages to locate beauty amid the urban squalor in Wintercomesummer; there is a romantic you-and-me-against-the-world defiance in songs like White Jazz and Filthy Names; he nails nightlife melodrama in Biography of a First Son and F.U.; and in the ballads I Didn't Mean it Marie and Dress You in Mourning he displays an unhealthy Catholic preoccupation with sex and death.

You'll be pleased to learn that this ten year anniversary re-release also contains a bonus CD. No filler here either with great material like Kid Stardust, I Was Drunk in the Underworld and The Ballad of Misery and Heaven all getting a welcome airing. You'll also find alternative versions of the singles and extracts from a live performance in Paris (hey, where else?).

Pioneer Soundtracks released by Spinney is on sale now. And if you want to keep tabs on Anthony Reynolds' current projects check out his rather excellent website.