Death of The Neighbourhood, the opening track, is a brilliant piece of misdirection. With a name that suggests dischord and the sound of society breaking down, this record kicks of with some full on dark and danceable electronica. It grabs you by the jugular and shakes you until your wallet falls out of the pocket; then it nicks your wallet and runs off to score some coke. From here on in, things are not quite as full on…
Next up, appropriately, is Cokeholes, which is a wryly observed and sharp tune that illustrates what complete tossers the majority of cokeheads are. “Got a straw stuck up my ass, going where’s the coke, where’s the coke?” states that hugely familiar voice. In your head you’re probably hearing those words being uttered in a Californian drawl, in reality we’re far closer to home.
Death of The Neighbourhood is the latest work of one Stephen Jones a man who is most famous for his brief brush with celebrity with Baby Bird and that song You’re Gorgeous. That song is only one part of the story of course. By the time You’re Gorgeous caught the nation’s attention Jones had already released a number of lo-fi albums. Following the success of that single he disappeared off of most people’s radar but still found time to write a book (The Bad Book) and continued to make great music as a solo artist and under the Baby Bird moniker. Two sets of musical ideas – cinematic for the most part – culminated with the much sought after and totally fabulous Plastic Tablets. Baby Bird released the criminally ignored Between My Ears There’s Nothing But Music and that pretty much brings us up to date.
Death of The Neighbourhood is classic Jones, to anyone familiar with his lo-fi and soundtrack material it’s unmistakable. Smart lyrics, imbued with dark humour and a sense of menace are scattered throughout the thirty-two tracks here. When they’re juxtaposed with cute snatches of musical styles as they are when a flute clashes with Jones’ peculiar hip-hop MC on Call Girl the effect can be quite unnerving. Similarly The Murd’ring Started Early is positively creepy with Jones’ voice bubbling up like methane through a swamp stating “I’ve been drowning puppies since I was four years old.” Yet Jones’ ear for melody keeps these songs from being dirges and you can’t help but regret the indifference that greeted some of his more accessible works.
The first disc of this set contains what most would consider “songs”, hop across to disc two and you’ll find material more representative of his film score work. The Town of Half Finished Buildings is beautiful in it’s simplicity, and haunting in an entirely different way to The Murd’ring Started Early. Blind Girl’s Broken Music Box is exactly how you’d imagine it to sound, whilst Enough Tranquilizer for a Horse mixes up a crafty beat with some emotive strings. These are dainty understated soundscapes that prove Jones to be a master of his craft.
Stephen Jones is nothing if not prolific, and as a result not everything always hits the mark, but he’s got a phenomenally high hit rate. Death of The Neighbourhood is an intelligent collection of musical ideas that requires the listener to fully immerse themselves. It’s about time Jones got the recognition he deserves as one of Britain’s most gifted songwriters; hopefully this will be the album to do that for him.