A short but satisfying set from ex-Long Blonde Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is back in town, eight years after her Sheffield-based band The Long Blondes split up. Stylish as always, dressed in black with an ironic t-shirt that says “Disappointing”, her return to live action ends with the driving album opener and single, ‘The End of Reason’, from her new record, ‘British Road Movies’. It’s the poppiest of her new songs, with synths from Jasper Kemp to the fore and a simple repeated bass line. It brings to mind new wave divas Kim Wilde and Lene Lovich.
The show starts with the really quiet album closer, ‘Velvet Sofa From No. 26’, a delicate echoing song. Jackson and her backing band The Wrong Moves perform most of the album, mostly in order. Her singing is powerful, melodic and never strained. The band play with power, energy and more of a raw edge than you’d expect from the record. Jackson’s lyrics are full of geography. “Flyovers, skyscrapers, yes I’m your man, part of you, part of me, this is our land,” she sings in ‘Metropolis’, ending with the catchy, repeated refrain, “This city pulls me to pieces.”
The post-punky ‘Homeward Bound’ is about the Suffolk landscape, she tells the adoring crowd at a packed and intimate Hoxton venue. Neat riffs carry the tune, and by ‘Wonder Feeling’ — the next song — guitarist Seymour Quigley is laying out licks with the intensity of a young Graham Coxon while Jackson belts out more lyrics about people, places and travel: “I’m in love with railway stations, wonder feeling, take me to the motorway.”
’16 years’ is “a song I wrote about my best friend… in Bury St Edmunds,” Jackson says, “I wasn’t there for her and never want that to happen again.” It’s part-spoken, gentle, and Jackson’s singing is majestic during the choruses. Quigley’s guitar picks up the melody from her, while drummer Shannon Hope harmonises and bassist Reuben Kemp also helps with backing vocals.
“This is a cheating song,” Jackson says to introduce ‘Lie To Me’, which The Wrong Moves render with a much heavier sound than the studio version, so that Jackson’s vocal top line recalls Pauline Murray. Similar echoes of Penetration can be heard on break-neck fast new track, ‘The Westerlies’, which may soon appear on an EP along with the bass-heavy ‘Future City’, “a song about walking”, that comes a couple of songs further into the set. Quigley, by now hot, sweaty and without his spectacles, throws his guitar around with indie-rock abandon.
‘Stranded’ allows Jackson to push her crystal clear vocals into a happy shoutiness, and ‘The Atlantic’ features more perfectly controlled shouted lyrics, like a slightly restrained Poly Styrene. “We only have one more song. That went really quickly,” Jackson says before ‘The End of Reason’ closes an 11-number set barely lasting more than 40 minutes. It doesn’t feel in any way unsatisfying. Jackson is a manifestly English singer and writer, crafting tunes and lyrics in the tradition of Suede, The Smiths, Bowie and The Pet Shop Boys. She has created a distinctive post-Britpop, post-new wave, elegant pop sound all of her own.
This Kate Jackson article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo by Ian Bourne.