Yes, yes, yes! went the cry, the holler, the affirmation, as it melted across the metropolis. Pioneer Soundtracks was about truth and beauty. Or rather, the often-thwarted desire to find them, even in the darker places. Especially in the darkest of places. Ten quick years on, Jacks debut album sounds as urgent, ambitious, florid and heated as ever. Literary and cinematic, it nonetheless bulges and trembles with very real emotion. Sometimes its wilfully wasted, heartbroken, forlorn. Other times its buzzing at the prospect of another night ride into the busy city. Its loud with voices in its head, its lonely in a crowd. Its one of those rare British albums which suggests albums could be more, could be greater, richer, more telling and durable.
Conceived by Anthony Reynolds in Cardiff in the early 90s, Jack were by the summer of 96 – the time of this release – learning about London and centred around the song-writing skills of Reynolds and all-round magician/musician Matthew Scott. The bands line-up was officially listed as: Matthew Scott (Guitars), Anthony Reynolds (Vocals, keyboards etc), Richard Adderly (Guitar), Paddy Pultzer (Drums), George Wright (Keyboards), Audrey Morse (Violin), Colin Williams (Bass). There were few natural musicians among this gang but in the great British tradition this mattered not a jot. Words were more important than melody and a certain kind of voice meant more than singing in itself. George Wright’s attitude toward his weezy analogue synth was much more important than his ability to play it. Especially next to the squadron of cellos, violins and violas in attendance. Following Eno’s dictum that the studio is an instrument in itself, Jack the recording group became much more than the sum of their parts. On stage, Eno’s philosophy was replaced by alcohol and lots of it.
Pioneer Soundtracks came out in the summer of ’96 on Too Pure (and on Rick Rubins American Recordings, Stateside) and got amazing reviews, whatever that means. It was produced, at Anthony’s bequest, by Peter Walsh, whod worked with Scott Walker on Climate Of Hunter and Tilt (and more recently on The Drift) and with Simple Minds on New Gold Dream. Jack’s first four singles – I Didnt Mean It Marie, Wintercomessummer, White Jazz and Biography Of A First Son – each became Melody Maker singles of the week setting up the album for what was to be a veritable fiesta of fine press. Here are some of the things the papers said. In The Guardian, Ian Penman noted the bands references to Bataille and Morricone and saw in them a British Gainsbourg, a UK Bukowski. He saw hungover poetry, he clocked the pervy and pretentious, he heard things highly strung and artfully arranged. Thats good, right? In Melody Maker, Allan Jones called it occasionally over-reaching but always mesmerising¦one of the essential records of the year¦the sound of a band creating its own universe, worlds apart from everything else. Thats got to be a good thing. He mentioned Bowie, Reed, Velvets; witnessed salvation and excess. In NME, Tom Cox remarked that Reynolds not only came up with majestic, brutally honest lines, but has the gumption to waste them in an arrogant mumble. In the Jack Zone, he mused, we will be degraded, but with style.
Reynolds once suggested the alternative title of Friday Night, Sunday Morning. Another might be Love On The Dole. Or Diamond Stray Cats With Wet Glistening Fur. He also said back then that, Side one is all about putting your make-up on, plucking your eyebrows. Side two is meant to hold your hand while you come down the morning after next. What does he say today, ten quick years on?
He says, We were full of piss and vinegar, but admittedly it was balsamic vinegar¦ He says, For a first record, we were spoiled. The record company at the time wanted the engineer of the local demo studio to ‘produce it. I insisted on one of the most expensive producers in the world. Pete Walsh is a maestro. As far as making one’s debut record goes, its like the equivalent of losing your virginity to Barbarella. And despite the record being commercially esoteric, it indirectly allowed me to make money from making music to this day. What else can I say? It was my final first record. First love never dies, and all that. Pioneer Soundtracks took the group around the world and has gone on to sell under a million copies. Jack made a great and glorious second record, The Jazz Age, and a huge and haunted third, The End Of The Way Its Always Been, before splitting in 2002.
This tenth anniversary re-release, on Spinney Records, is a two-disc set featuring extra B-sides, demo versions, alternative mixes and a mightily atmospheric live concert from the Paris Cigale (late 1996), (This is sadly not the classic concert wherein Jack, among many other flourishes, artfully cover Barry White – but check out the Myspace link below). Pioneer Soundtracks was their first, if not their last, and not their everything, although it contains more than most other peoples everything. Does it contain traffic lights, adultery, Sapphic tendencies? It does. Do its sweeps and swoops carry off lines like Meet me in the off license at a quarter to ten and “Hope is a liar and the truth is wrong” and “Some things take forever but this long never”? They do. Will it survive it all? It will. Yes. It will. It does.
Chris Roberts, London, October 2006
Title: Pioneer Soundtracks (expanded)
Formats: 2xcd only
Cat. no.: spinney009cd
Bar code: 0666017147420
Release date: 5th March 2007