ALBUM REVIEW by Victor Stranges
It is rare that you get to know a band personally before you get to know their music. Such is the case with Jacobs Run. I chanced upon them as they were working with a good friend of mine, Michael Matthews, who was promoting this album.
I became involved too, and in fact, ended up playing a show with them in June 2021. The gig was at the fabulous Jimmy Hornet in Melbourne, run by legendary local music impresario, Anthea Palmer.I heard songs from their 2019 album over a few acoustic shows which really stood up on their own. Meeting Michael Jacobs was a thrill and even better, he gave me a copy of their self-titled album at one of the shows. As a songwriter myself, we were talking about arrangements and the emotion and feeling that you try to radiate from a recording. Jacobs has an Italian background and so too do the other two members of the group. I knew this would be interesting.
“The situation is your life….” starts the album’s preamble, alerting to the direction in which nudges the listener to matters of the heart. A guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll foundation is asserted as the song takes off in earnest. It jaggedly stops and starts with a memorable rhythmic riff, and in between, there is an orchestra playing along. A string section punctuates the empty spaces and pulls the emotion alongside its rock ‘n’ roll companions. And it doesn’t let up.
“Better Days” gets right to the point with a shimmering Rickenbacker and acoustic guitar allowing the terms of the song to be established. The author unashamedly wears his heart on his sleeve as he declares, “you make these days better days.” The song doesn’t resolve on a natural G but like all good pop songs, it leaves you wanting more, and in this case, the song ends on a C chord, leaving it hanging like an early R.E.M. song. Sweet.
Some lovely melodic bass playing from Peter Curigliano bouncing to the shuffling rhythm of drummer, Fabian Bucci, demonstrates a togetherness that has seen the group play international stages on their own tours in the U.S. and alongside Australian rock royalty including The Black Sorrows, The Badloves, and Jimmy Barnes.
I must have played the album seven times nonstop over three days and it kind of reminded me of a traditional album listening experience. It was thinking the record had familiarity but I couldn’t put my finger on why that was. Songs seamlessly weaved their way through some pretty rich musical tapestry with the occasional…. “what was that?” running through my mind. Some nice turns and twists made it a rich listening experience.
There is an uneasiness in the musicality which opines that life and love are not always so straightforward. String orchestrations often work in reverse to the melodic sentiment and that’s what makes it interesting in tracks like “So Beautiful,” presenting an austere, if not obsessive manner where the author blurts out, “every time I try, she makes me want to cry.” As he sings “I want to make her so beautiful” there are angular-sounding guitars fighting for space with a kooky orchestra. It somehow makes you think he is reaching for some anti-depressants. Tasty stuff.
There is a musical heritage that comes out in Jacobs’ songwriting and through the production of Glenn Scott. British sounds are there, which sometimes remind you of Oasis or The Verve but we have some Australiana going on with the jangly side of The Church, choruses channeling Noiseworks, and the subtlety of The Black Eyed Susans in parts. There is a slightly transatlantic American Music Club vibe going on and a nod to 1970s power pop outfit Big Star, particularly in the use of Memphis-style female backing vocals such as “In Your Eyes.”
Ballads are a plenty and convincing enough that it seems, at least lyrically, that the singer has been through life’s wringer and has had to rethink and reconfigure a new outlook on life; yearning for the simplicity that is hard to find in a neurologically distorted information age that we live in.
The closing track, “Number 5” demonstrates that goodness in life is tragically hard to scale on your own. Time and goodwill are hard to leverage as Jacobs sings, “I’m doing all I can” over and over. It’s a melancholic meditation that shows you can get to the end of yourself in life and you may either be trying to tap into some higher power or are virtually at the door of doing so without even realizing it. It’s a yearning for connection that Jacobs Run do so well. Whether you have an audience in a live situation or whether it comes through your car speakers, they are providing the solace you so desperately need.
Standout tracks include the singles, “Number 5”, “Hold On A Minute”, “Use”, “Sleepwalking”, “Better Days”, “So Beautiful” and “Superman.” An impressive debut from a very experienced group of songwriters and musicians.
It has recently been confirmed that Jacobs Run are going into the studio in 2022 to record their second album with award-winning music producer, Mark Opitz (INXS, AC/DC, Cold Chisel). I for one am looking forward to their follow-up.