Jackpot are a four piece from Sacramento, California who have remained quietly unknown since their formation in the late 1990s. F+ is their fourth album, following Boneville, Weightless and Shiny Things, and again showcases their quirky alt-country style.
Despite the fact that F+ is probably their most accessible to date, it probably won’t raise their profile any higher. That’s not to say it’s a bad album, in fact in places it’s very good indeed. It’s more frustrating than anything else – there are moments of brilliance on here, but there are also a fair few dirges to wade through.
It does start off well though with Adventures Galore. A dirty guitar riff propels the song onwards while main man Rusty Miller’s jaded vocals suit the song perfectly. There’s some odd lyrics that actually don’t make that much sense (“goose pimples and aluminium cans, you’re a girl and I’ve got no suntan”) but these don’t detract from the song. Upside Down is even better, gliding in on a Velvet Underground style riff before exploding into some glorious FM rock that wouldn’t sound out of place in an American teen TV show.
Jackpot also make an admirable effort not to fall into any type of pigeonhole. While this keeps F+ an interesting listen, it also makes for a rather uneasy and schizophrenic one. When We Get Together starts for all the world like Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz but follows the melancholy country of Windshield Wipers. There’s also the hard rock of If We Could Go Backwards followed by the acoustic strum of Airplanes And Secrets. It’s as if in their rush not to be categorised, Jackpot forgot to instill a strong enough personality on F+.
Then there’s Miller’s vocal. It’s not an easy voice to love – a lethargic croak that brings to mind J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr at times. Although it works well on some tracks, it also ruins others. Euphoria, for instance, is just dire. Six minutes of plodding country with Miller’s voice at its croaky worst. “Ricochet some euphoria my way,” runs the chorus, and it’s impossible to disagree with the man: anything to inject some life into proceedings would be nice.
It’s a shame because when Jackpot are on form they sound great – the extended euphoric playout of Charlie Watts Is God being a case in point. If they concentrated more on the swampy rock that dominates the first half of the album, they could produce a truly great album. Until then, F+ is likely to only gain top marks from the band’s hardcore fans.