Album Reviews

It’s Jo And Danny – The Quickening

(Snazzy Records) UK release date: 22 August 2005

What a disappointment! It’s Jo and Danny (a new entry in the chart of worst band names ever at number 41 this week – and which also seems to be shouting out for some quotation marks and a big exclamation at the end) apparently once released an album described lazily by the authority that is Maxim magazine as “The Velvet Underground meets the Cocteau Twins“, and by The Face as “Spiritualized fronted by Carole King“. Meanwhile, the NME wet itself trying to compare them to Primal Scream and The Beta Band. Well not on this album fellas!

Such a hybrid would have been something to look forward to. Indeed, had I been in Vegas, I would have staked half of my record collection on the chance of hearing something that could garner such praise. So imagine my disappointment on finding this eleven-track collection to be akin to the sort of music my primary school teacher might have wowed us with one lazy afternoon when I was six. Which might suggest a beautiful return to some pastoral moment when none of us had a care in the world – and, in a way, it does. But in another way it also dares the listener to stay awake.

The irony here is that the intention of IJ&D appears to be to try and grab our attention and say something from their hearts about contemporary life and relationships. The Quickening refers to the moment in pregnancy when the mother first feels the foetus move, and there is clearly some mystical importance being attached to this here. The liberal use of religious imagery connected with the natural world seems to be trying to umbilically link the destruction of the environment with the need to find meaning in life through love.

The opening track God’s Closed His Eyes sets the tone of this tension as singer Jo Bartlett mourns the end of the rainforests, sanctioned by a deity that has chosen to ignore it. Closing track Room 220 leaves us in an urban setting of a battered wife hitting the road to escape her torment. The journey from the pastoral idyll to the harsh reality of modern life indeed. Yet the whimsicality of Bartlett’s almost teenage voice, accompanied by the languid strumming of guitars and some fiddles, just make you think “ah, who cares?” Perhaps I’m missing the point – perhaps the aim is to couch their outrage in saccharine to make it more palatable. But this has all been done before, and more beautifully, not least by Joni Mitchell.

Now I don’t go in for all this hippie claptrap about how our lives are so much worse now we have cars, roads and live in centrally heated homes. But I have no doubt that the attendees of the Green Man folk festival, where IJ&D are playing this year, are going to love this. The competency and elegance of the songwriting, the arrangements, and Bartlett’s voice will work like ivy on some olde English cottage, twisting itself round their bearded hearts and making them feel forty years old again. But my heart is of stone, uninspired by their lank melodies and diddly-dee instrumentation. There was no quickening of my heart when it started and, although it never outstayed its welcome, by the end I just wished I had never invited it into my house in the first place.

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