Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, Just Jack isn’t in fact a brand new artist suddenly discovered by inspired A&R types. Jack Allsopp, as he’s otherwise known, first appeared in 2004 with an album entitled The Outer Marker when the idea of someone rapping in a regional accent over pop beats seemed to be purely Mike Skinner‘s territory and nobody else’s.
The Outer Marker, despite gaining some positive critical notices, didn’t enjoy much commercial success and Allsopp disappeared to lick his wounds. Now, with the popularity of artists such as Jamie T and Plan B, Allsopp is back being packaged as a more commericial alternative to those two ‘rappers with guitars’.
The comparasions with The Streets are pretty far from the mark – Overtones is a far cry from the grimey glamour of Skinner’s best work. Although there is some similarity in their voices, Allsopp’s sound is unashamedly poppy, throwing in elements such as soul and funk. While it may not make for a particularly challenging listen, you can see it appealing to a huge number of people.
Where Allsopp really does excel is with his lyrics. He’s got an ear for a memorable couplet, as Glory Days’ “I’m happier than whores with chivilarious clientele” demonstrates. Starz In Their Eyes (despite the irritating spelling) is a superbly written warning to the X-Factor generation – “it’s a long way to come from the Dog and Duck karaoke machine and Saturday night’s drunken dreams”, while Writer’s Block deals with inertia and lethargy with a simple line like “Should really go and make a coffee but I can’t be arsed”.
It’s a shame then that not all the music lives up to the promise of his lyrics. Sometimes, it’s spot on, as in Starz’ gloriously catchy pop tune, and the infectious whistling hook of Glory Days. Yet too often Allsopp blands out, as on the sub-Jamiroquai funk noodlings of Hold On or the rather dull Symphony Of Sirens (with a title like that, you’d expect something really hard-hitting, but we get a very laid back slice of chilled-out, atmospheric dance instead).
While his rapping is impressive, Allsopp’s singing voice isn’t great and on tracks like the aforementioned Lost his voice seems to strain somewhat. He also struggles to stay in tune during I Talk Too Much, but this is saved by a nicely memorable chorus.
He’s better served by the dramatic ballad of Morning Mourning or the straight-ahead pop tunes like Starz In Their Eyes. There’s a big mixture of musical styles on Overtones, from light touches of old-school house music to the Spanish guitar sound of Hold On. Over the course of an album though, the dearth of memorable tunes means that it all becomes a bit bland.
Don’t come to Just Jack expecting some gritty songs of the type that Plan B and Jamie T specialise in – his light funk will possibly infuriate as many as it will enchant. However, it is tailor made for today’s charts and will undoubtably sell a bucketload. Don’t expect anything too challenging, but it’ll certainly be second time lucky for Just Jack.