off the sensible cardigan, and try on a feather boa. Forget rainy afternoons
and think decadent, neon-lit nights. (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson,
the first solo album from Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson, is
more giddy music hall than waifish indie pop. It’s a high kicking, cake walking
collection of songs about film directors (“Just, Just So to the Point” and “Kurosawa”),
1970s soul icons (“Man of God”) and email etiquette (“Press Send”).
might remember that Jackson
wrote (or co-wrote) a handful of jangly, upbeat songs for Belle & Sebastian
in the early 2000s: “The Wrong Girl,” “Jonathan David” and “Step Into My
Office, Baby.” His songs were jauntier, jokier and less wistful than
Stuart Murdoch’s offerings (and also just less). His solo album is
equally lighthearted — well-constructed but a bit ephemeral.
lyrics are dense and often quite clever – witness the dense thicket of movie
references in “Just, Just So To the Point,” or the Franco-phile rhymes in
“Where Do All the Good Girls Go?” Yet sometimes the cleverness palls, as on the
too cute pigeon tale “Bird’s Eye View” or the self-consciously jokey “Press
is nothing lo-fi or minimal about these songs. Jackson brings in strings, pianos, a full
rock band and even, in one case, a French accordion, to frame arch lyrics in
elaborate arrangements. Bill Wells sits in on nearly every track, Roy Moller
sings frequently, and Dave MacGowan plays pedal steel.
arrangements are critical, because the best tracks back hyper literacy with
soul – literally. There’s a lovely, half-nostalgic nod to classic R&B on a
handful of these tracks, in the string swoops and bass thump of “Just, Just So
to the Point,” and in the piano and soaring group vocals, of “Man of God,”
(which pays homage to Roberta Flack collaborator Donny Hathaway and the Detroit
obvious fondness for 1970s soul gives these songs added resonance. They sound
like they matter to him, and so they matter more to us.
course, a decade with Belle & Sebastian might make anyone wary of
self-examination, and no one’s asking Jackson
to bare his soul. Still, there’s a surface-y, writing-exercise quality to many
of these songs. (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson doesn’t really give us much Stevie Jackson, just some clever jottings and puns and tunes he’s
scratched out in a notebook.
“Just, Just So to the Point,” “Man of God” JENNIFER KELLY