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Jackdaw4: The Eternal Struggle For Justice

Hot on the heels of the re-release of the phenomenal first two albums by Jackdaw4 (under the name Retrospectacles), Willie Dowling returns with his band to deliver another dazzling blast of gloriously melodious power-pop. Whilst The Eternal Struggle For Justice may have eschewed the sharper edged guitars that drove some of the tracks on the band's debut album Gramophone Logic, the amazing vocal structures and harmonies remain the focus for the eclectic map of influences that Jackdaw4 have brought to everything they have recorded. Band names like XTC, Jellyfish, Queen or The Beatles are often bandied about to try and help to pin down the seductive range of sounds presented by this band, however while all of those named above do offer a glimpse of what is served here, in truth for those of us lucky enough to already be in the know, these songs could only be one thing and that is Jackdaw4.

Kicking in with the guitar stabs and layered vocals of the title track, I'm pleased to say that the band's amazing ability to blend Willie's sharp, well observed and witty lyrics with some amazingly upbeat, yet sharply focused melodies is still what J4 rely on to get their point across. Then as "Everyone Becomes The Road They Take" races into view you are hit by the most memorable chorus of the year, with backing "Oooohs" and "Aaaahs" that would have made the Beach Boys proud, before some wonderfully arranged horns trade off with a harmonica solo! Banjo takes a front seat for the call and response rocking chair blues of "Wire To The Wire", which slowly winds its way into your mind, then the huge vocals in the chorus smack you straight on the kisser with its shocking contrast to what has gone before. It may take a couple of listens to fully appreciate, however in an album full of highlights; this song is one of those that makes the deepest impression.

"We Sold It All", which was inspired by the very people who used to be cutting edge, like Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and John Lydon popping up on TV adverts for insurance companies, or trying to sell us butter, is a the tale of how everything has been reduced to its monetary worth. Cutting, dry and absolutely spot on. Nobody does up-beat melancholy like Jackdaw4 as they manage to weave dark lyrical and musical themes into uncomfortably uplifting sections, which is perfectly illustrated by "Waiting To Die". While "Someone Who Cares" continues the vibe with a great guitar line, some wonderful organ and a ranging bass line bouncing through another insightful comment on life. If it all sounds a little "heavy", then that really couldn't be further from the truth, as The Eternal Struggle For Justice is the type of album that has your foot tapping and your head nodding, whilst retaining the guile to have you singing these songs for days to come. The fact that the words that accompany it all are intelligent and well constructed is just a bonus.

The angular dive of "Wonderful" comes on like Muse minus the pomp and bombast and yet again the arrangements and vocals are simply outstanding. Then once the lounge piano and operatic vocal of "Pornography" fades in over screams and yelps of pleasure, we are led off to listen to what could have happened if Roxy Music, Queen and T-Rex had blended into one act. The singing piano trades wonderfully with great guitar work that wouldn't have been out of place in Willie's previous outfit Honeycrack, making for an absolute belter of a song. "The Great Unknown" then takes a little pinch of all the ideas that have been used up to this point to make a great bounce along song that sees piano once more jostle with brass and the sparkling vocals that always eventually win the battle. The album closes with "Baby I'm A Killer", which considering the grand, yet focused scale of what has proceeded it initially sounds quite sparse, however the skill in the vocals (once again) and slow build into a gentle yet insistent waltz actually becomes all the more impactful for not having the same alluring hooks that are so evident elsewhere.

It is a travesty that Willie Dowling and Jackdaw4 aren't household names, as the skill and musical awareness displayed throughout The Eternal Struggle For Justice is at times quite breath taking and amazingly accessible for such complex, yet catchy music.

You could call it power-pop, some might call it progressive-pop, Willie calls it Eclecto-pop. I call it brilliant.

Track Listing
1. The Eternal Struggle For Justice
2. Everyone Becomes The Road They Take
3. Wire To Wire
4. We Sold It All
5. Waiting To Die
6. Someone Who Cares
7. Wonderful
8. Pornography
9. The Great Unknown
10. Baby I'm A Killer

Added: July 3rd 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Jackdaw4 Official Web Site
Hits: 3271
Language: english

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