just jack and the burnt-out shell of my ambience

6 09 2009

“The day I died was the best day of my life,
Tell my friends and my kids and my wife
Everything’s gonna be alright,
The day I died was the best day of my life.”

Quiet buses, no roadworks, an empty in-tray and a colleague you don’t like getting fired. Good things (mostly!), but

Its only Jack

It's only Jack

the best day of your life? Just Jack has a habit of wandering through a lyrical story like he’s a bit bored, some of which are profound and some less so – he did “Stars in Their Eyes”, and  I could never quite work out if it was profound or not. His latest song (The Day I Died) appears to be profound, yet at the same time strangely empty. With a catchy riff and a cheerful sound, it has a depressing take on what are the good things in life.

And perhaps most worrying is the lack of an idea of consequences. Life is life is life, nothing really matters, as long as the sun shines and my bus isn’t late. The not-so-hidden twist (plot spoiler!)  in this song is that he gets killed by a taxi – oops. But never mind –  we are asked to tell his friends, and his wife and kids, that everything is gonna be alright. It’s fine, chill out. The bus was on time.

Is it fine? But daddy is dead? Forgive me for over-reacting, but that doesn’t sound alright to me; and certainly isn’t on the same level of seriousness as the bus being late. The consequences of his death are lost in a predicable chord sequence; the musing on life and death so under-developed as to leave me thinking the song must have stopped half-way through.His theology of death leaves a little to be desired: apparently he has 99 red balloons floating in the summer sky, past his dreary eyes. Unless he was a pretty absent friend and father, I hope the consequences of his sudden death are a little more than that to them. They certainly will be to the poor taxi driver.

Aah well, maybe I am over-reacting. Maybe I should be glad that someone is at least trying to write stories in there songs. I will be singing along with everyone else, you can guarantee it. I’m all for ambience in songs, I’m all for chilled-out stories highlighting the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of modern life. Even Lily Allen manages that sometimes, weaving as she does dark, sinister lyrics (or are they also meaningless?) around tunes that sound like Telly-tubby songs. But ambience in songs like this seem so depressingly fatalistic, the hope so empty of meaning, containing about as much depth as the shallow end of an ice-cube. Like Emile Heskey, you know the potential is there it just doesn’t quite ever get there.

Burnt out shell of an ambulance

Burnt out shell of an ambulance

When discussing recently an incident at our local hospital in which an ambulance caught fire and exploded (! – it’s ok, no-one hurt…), someone spoke of ‘the burnt out shell of an ambulance’ – which sounded so like something profound I couldn’t help but use it. So, Mr Just Jack, please continue to write, please continue to tell stories; but please let’s not hear any more from the burnt out shell of your ambience, no more mediocre meanderings of little meaning; instead, give substance to your ambience, tickle us with tales of tenacity, amaze and amuse us with your anecdotes and prod and poke us with your poetry and philosophies and observations until we are uncomfortable enough to want to put something truly bland on. Suggestions welcome!

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