After The Long Blondes’ untimely disbansion in 2008 Kate Jackson went on to working on her solo career, forming the Kate Jackson Group, working in The Wrong Moves and The Wilsons, as well working with Bernard Butler of Suede. British Road Movies is the result of the Jackson/Butler collaborations, and it has been a long wait. The result is a collection of cinematic alt-pop songs which would fit perfectly with any road movie.
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This record gives me an opportunity for me to talk about what I’d call the ‘Bernard Butler problem'. It may be a benefit to 6 Music programmers when sifting through the millions of releases each week if your album is produced by the former Suede man but when you have spent your musical life impressed by actually nothing he'’s ever put his name to then it’s a more difficult proposition. Firstly he has hair that tries too hard but I can forgive that. More importantly, everything he is involved is always sounds too slick, too soulless and those are perfect words to describe this album by former the Long Blondes front lady.
First up: nice back story. Kate was inspired by brutalist buildings she saw whilst touring the country with the Long Blondes. It's hard to equate this with the War On Drugs drive time rock of the opening ’The End of Reason’. It's as LA and as slick as whatever Don Henley put on the B side to ’New York Minute’. Very different and actually worse is ‘Homeward Bound’ - a rawwwwk song with Butlers signature guitar sound in evidence. It’s like that time Laura Branigan sang along to early Suede. By the time I get to ‘Metropolis’ I realise far too late that comparatively I quite liked the opening track. This is like one of those really bad Stevie Nicks albums where she phones in her vocal amid standard rock backing. I had expected the record to start smoothly and perhaps get more interesting as Kate discovers the music she actually wants to make such as the synth driven glam rock, ‘Blade Runner’ electronica erroneously promised by the press release. It's true I quite like the Pulp-ish spoken word ’16 Years’ and that is despite Butler’s wasp-caught-in-a-jam-jar solo but little else catches my ear.
Unfortunately this isn't anything like what should emerge from 'a shared love of Bowie, Eno, The Fall, Shocking Blue and Neil Young' (again, the press release is talking). It is instead a horribly slick and grating record and as a result I expect fine reviews across the board elsewhere. The Butler mystery continues.
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