On occasion, I get asked to pen band biographies, essentially lovingly crafted, glowing recommendations of very fine bands. They’re lovely things to write, it’s nice to be allowed to have a good gush from time to time. This one is for an East London outfit called Union Jackals, who released their debut album, ’Universal Screenplay’, last year.
In music world, neat labels and correctly marked boxes are the order of the day. Everything has a place, and there’s a place for everything. And when everything has been allotted its place, it could always do with a bit more sorting, just so we’re all clear. Post this, pre that, alt whatever, nu something or other.
Give us a break will you? Riding roughshod over the whole lot of it, surfing in on the flotsam of jetsam of all that’s come before are East London’s Union Jackals.
Ask them and they’ll tell you they do a kind of psych rock, post punk thing rolled up in a tidy classic guitar pop bundled. You know, they’ll say, shoegaze guitars, electronic meanderings, prog stylings, sprinkle of sci-fi, that sort of thing.
But we’re done with labels, right? What you really, really need to do is feel the quality of much tunemongery. Here is a band who clearly understand a thing or two about making euphoric uplifting pop music. No pretentions about being anything they’re not, no preconceptions about where they might fit should someone come along with a little box and some labels, few qualms about turning in song after song drenched in flipping marvellous juice. Everywhere your ears turn there’s a tune that’ll stick in your head for days, and every tune comes packed with a wealth of twinkles, pings, thrums and tinkles, blips and beeps, twangs and clangs, which all add to a warmth that could heat houses.
Take their debut album, ‘Universal Screenplay’. It’s an album like albums used to be. Forget some killer mostly filler long-players that weight down ear space, this is an album that actually works from start to finish. One of those records that flows seamlessly from opener ‘Afterlife’ that bounds out of the speakers like a greyhound on a rabbit promise right through to the epic spacey closer ‘Some God’s Changelings’ which drifts beautifully into the swirling soundscape of ‘Epilogue’ in a way that only Spiritualized could imagine.
And at all points in between, every last song comes fully fitted with a thumping melody that’d shake even the stoniest of hearts. There’s the storking singalong ‘Press Reset’, which wouldn’t have been out of place performed by Wings, the joyous ‘Spaceship Dream’ is so full of beans you could happily serve it up on toast, while glowing gently the Champagne-glass tinkle of ‘I Am The Sun’ is the sort of song you can almost hear slaying an entire field of festival goers.
You’ve got to love a band who draw on a musically life fully led with such gusto. Invest in Union Jackals and you’ll hear all sorts tucked away in the mix – influences from the last 50 years of pop music, melodies that tug on half-remembered songs by flecks of bands gone by that you can only welcome hearing again.
Doesn’t really matter where it comes from, you’re just glad it’s here. Now.
It’s time you joined the Jackal pack, as US Senator Joseph McCarthy once almost said.
Union Jackals are Carl Mann (lead vocal & guitar), Paul Reeves (bass, backing vocals), Rob Anderson (guitar), Steve Grainger (drums, backing vocals) and Stephen Barnes (keys, backing vocals).