Darkness and whimsy from the streets of Hackney.
During the summer of 2020, London’s Hackney Road studios would have been graced by, Tom Charleston, Jonny Helm and Charlie Higgs AKA, Jessica’s Brother. Dan Mayfield would have added his violin to the mix with backing vocals from Polimana and Shantha Roberts. The studio itself seems a perfect home for this trio boasting as it does a variety of vintage and modern gear including a Neve console and 1905 Bluthner Grand Piano. With this supporting cast of equipment, Jessica’s Brother has emerged with an album that is by turns, whimsical, dark, melancholic and carefree.
The indie-rock intro of, ‘Just Rain’ does not augur the tone for the rest of the songs but passes as a fulsome intro to a song that could only have been written by a Brit, featuring as it does allusions to cups of tea, rain and the victorian phraseology of, “Whoops a Daisy”, the etymology of which can be traced to Clough Robinson’s ‘The dialect of Leeds and its neighbourhood’, 1862: “Upsa daesy! a common proclamation when a child, in play, is assisted in a spring-leap from the ground”. ‘Finding Snowdrop’ enters slower, more mellow waters with the lead guitar giving a loose swaying feel to the surreal world created by the rambling lyrics. Adding to this sense of unreality are the slightly off-centre, dissonant harmonies of the aforementioned backing vocalists. The loose structure prevails a on, ‘Boat Song’, being an acoustic waltz that might collapse at any time with a momentary straying of concentration by its creators. ‘Land Ahoy,(Beyond Buoyed)’ is a shambolic sing-along fed by searing electric guitars that ultimately achieve a satisfying sonic intensity. Mayfield’s considered violin work shines on, ‘Darling I wanted to Know’ with more than a touch of Tindersticks influence being discernable. ‘Caroline’ has an up-tempo shuffle beat contrasting with the spoken/sung ramblings of, ‘Little One’. The final track,‘Big Boy Now’ has the most ragged edges with its telephonic voice giving a bleak feel to the whimsy of, “Make a potion in my treehouse, turn the dog in to a dormouse”.
Like all the best fairy tales the songs on ‘Just Rain’ may superficially appear to be upbeat and joyful but scratch beneath the surface and dark psychological verities emerge, reality becomes distorted and all is not what it seems. It is a credit to Jessica’s Brother that they have, in their idiosyncratic way, captured these qualities and shared them with us in such an engaging way.