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The Jacks: Album review

The Jacks, a three piece band from Melbourne, is a mix between punk and rockabilly. Renee Tibbs reviews their self-titled album which, she deems, is as addictive as candyfloss to a six-year-old.

Candyfloss. Even before you ever tasted it, you knew you were going to go frigging batshit over it. It was pink, fluffy and 98% pure sugar, aka kid heroin. To your six-year-old eyes, ‘twas all that was good. It’s like that with this album. The CD art is disarmingly retro, a black-and-sepia marvel adorned with ‘50s lingerie-clad coyly smiling wenches, leather jackets and cartoon wolves. There are ads for The Jacks’ ‘high frequency electric treatment in your own home!’ and ‘The shocking truth revealed… inside!’ It’s done with lovin’ care and attention and looks really nifty. Your six-year old eyes are drawn in, and, just like that first taste of candyfloss, when you put the album on, it’s a sensory delight. But the candyfloss of this Melbourne trio is a bitter sweet indeed.

There’s a cracker straight out of the gates with opener All Nite, which boasts rockin’ raw punk helped along with a large dollop of rockabilly. We’re introduced to the snarling vocal of lead singer Jungle Jim Smith and some great instruments: frenetic drumming and loud, fuzzy guitars. Next song Into Forever builds on this mood of beer, bikes and loose women with some Irish-tinged punk à la The Pogues, and could in fact be at home nestled anywhere on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash.

The upbeat punk tone of the first half of the album is a great scene-setter, but doesn’t set The Jacks up as one-trick ponies. Coming half-way through at number four is Hit City, which changes it up a bit as a heavier, more straight-up rock ‘n’ roll number. It’s really nicely paced and flows on from the other material as opposed to jarring with it. ‘I don’t need your money/And I don’t need your love,’ growls Jim. You get the feeling these guys don’t need much except their instruments and the open road.

Then we’re back in MacGowan territory with Dead Radio, one of the album highlights that also gives nods to AntiFlag and Rancid. The instruments overlay well here and hint at what we can look forward to in terms of musicianship with these lads. And slower-paced closer Midnight Drive has a great bridge and some fittingly tonal vocal back-up to accompany Jungle Jim: ‘Baby don’t you wanna be/On a one-way ride?’ he entices, ‘Baby don’t you wanna be/On a midnight drive?’ You get the feeling that this is a drive one little hussy isn’t coming back from.

Apart from the vocal, the drumming is another stand-out on the album, playing breakneck speeds with easy changes in tempo (Hit City, Old Black Rose), and it’s obvious that drummer Tim Dee is just generally content with beating the everloving shit out of his drumkit. The production is raw and fuzzy, as it should be, and the enthusiasm seeps out of the speakers like nicotine tar. It’s a sweet debut, and any learner’s flaws can be quickly forgiven in the face of such passionate rock ‘n’ roll that makes you want to shout the pub a round. So in short: help yourself to The Jacks. They ain’t candyfloss, but dude, you can buy beer.

Renee Tibbs is  enrolled in the graduate diploma of journalism program at La Trobe University. This was originally published at her blog duck down the alleyway.

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