The Passing Parade - Jack Howard (Jack Howard) and False Idols - Hugo Race and the True Spirit (Glitterhouse)
Seems that the long EP is the way to go. A CD single was always a bit naff, a CD EP was okay but seemed a little wasteful in terms of time; a full CD these days is the equivalent of a double vinyl LP back in the mists of time.
Speaking of going back, a decent 7” was a work of art, whether it be by the Clash or the Psycho Surgeons, the Cramps or The News (I’ll never forget the first and only time I’ve held a single-sided single in my hands - utterdelight and incomprehension all at once). An EP was harder to achieve but was still a work of art.
An actual full LP stuffed with brilliance … these were a lot rarer than old scrotes like me make out. So perhaps the longer EP, or short LP, is the way for an artist to get themselves into your head.
There are six songs on Jack Howard’s disc, it was available in time for the "Day by the Green 16" festival the other weekend, and it’s a different animal from what Jack and Nicky Del Ray (guitars) do onstage. For a start, the whole EP has a feel of a couple of films - the soundtrack to "Taxi Driver", and the soundtrack to "Paris, Texas". Both films are not readily enjoyable, regardless of what critics say.
("Taxi Driver" - Christ, you’d never want to see that film on acid, the colours and photography makes you bug-eyed.)
Strangely, The Passing Parade has that glorious lush quality as well as that "Paris, Texas" sparse, dry tone. Quite an achievement. Hearing "The Passing Parade" is like going to a rather eerily familiar place; Jack tells the stories and we're engaged.
I just want to reiterate how strong Jack’s lyrics are, and how emotive and evocative his voice is. If I told you his voice reminds me a little of Chris Wilson’s, it’s a passing comparison because this EP is a groovy, laid-back, chill-wise experience. And I can’t get over his cover of "Ball of Confusion".
Hugo Race is one of those walk it, don’t talk it kinda guys. He just can’t sit still. If he’s not charging about Italy or Africa (my god, the man’s written a book about it) making cds with musicians, he’s doing it somewhere else.
"False Idols" has five songs; the title track is first and lopes out of the blocks in a sort of intimate funk, Hugo’s hot wet razor vocals as instantly vivid and unique as Cohen or Waits - and he’s been compared to both. Unfairly, I think; both Cohen and Waits have huge reputations, and who’d want that kind of comparison to live up to?
Any such surface comparison seems facile, as Race simply comes from his own place, following his own thin thread, and his huge result is bound to have overlap. The second song, "Poor Boy", is a Pierce/Race number recalling his two tracks on two of the three "Jeffrey Lee Pierce Session Project" LPs; again "Poor Boy" is a stunning, swirling piece. "Hematite", "Lip Service" and "Magnetic Girl" follow.
This is another essential purchase; a friend recently compared "Lip Service" to Joe Cocker, and I am in no position to comment, as I always found the image of Cocker’s flailing about rather disgusting, and have yet to hear a decent song. However, three or four punches later I am obliged to concede that (a) Cocker was probably capable of writing a decent song and (b) there may be grounds for comparison. Fortunately I got away with avoiding a promise to investigate Cocker, which leaves me much more time to listen to Hugo Race instead. And even read his book.
Hugo Race's False Idols, get it here.
Jack Howard's Passing Parade, get it here.
Both EPs require your immediate attention and emphasise upon me more than ever how utterly boring contemporary mainstream radio is. Besiege your rubbish radio station.