Sat 29 Sept
words: DARREN HOWELLS
For all the outré stylings (yes, she did opt for some feathered, Tudor-style attire this evening) and the eagerness to talk about her Mormon upbringing and Tom Waits’ endorsement, there’s no doubting that Jesca’s most recent album, The House That Jack Built, has made a beeline for the mainstream – unashamed pop that Simon Cowell would pay a handsome fortune to launch his latest X-Factor manipulation with. But for all the record’s production gloss and catchy choruses, these numbers contain a darker centre only fully affecting in a pared back live setting.
The Europop of Hospital (Win Your Love) tackles the subject of self-harm, whilst DNR, an emotional number concerning her father’s passing, was simply haunting delivered with sparse acoustic backing allowing her light vocal to delicately touch the more intent listener (unfortunately, a small group of overcooked thirtysomething ladies frequently had to be asked to quieten down). The oft-made and favourable comparison to Suzanne Vega and Kate Bush is certainly warranted on the evidence of these numbers, whilst highlighting how crass the new direction really is – the acclaimed Hunting My Dress, from 2009, was too off the wall for most listeners.
It’s unfortunate that her clear talent for suggestive and at times blackly humorous songwriting, and an ethereal vocal delivery, has been conquered on Jesca’s latest record. Whilst The House… is certainly easy on the ears, and has the benefit of sounding instantly familiar, it’s been overworked to the extent of becoming as throwaway and forgettable as anything in the charts today. Perhaps that was the idea, given commercial success has so far fallen some way short in comparison to overwhelming critical appreciation. Hopefully, the crowd’s wildly positive reaction will give her the confidence to strip back the more distracting elements of her make-up and add further spotlight to her two main, natural talents in future.