Roots rock band Jack The Radio is scheduled to return this week with its latest full-length studio recording. The band is scheduled to release its latest album – its fifth so far – Creatures Friday. The 14-song album record shows extensive growth from the band in terms of its musical arrangements. They and the record’s lyrical themes ensure audiences engagement from the start to end of the album’s 44-inute run time. Collectively they make the record a work that will appeal to its established fan base just as much as fans of JTR’s fellow alt-country rock band Reckless Kelly as to fans of Joe Bonamassa, Bruce Springsteen and others. The album has already spawned at least three singles that are certain to be hits in their own right, and they are only some of the album’s most notable works. ‘We’re All Right’ is another of the album’s songs that shows the album’s strength. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Hurricane,’ which comes later in the album’s run, is another notable addition to the album. It will be addressed a little later. ‘Secret Cities,’ the record’s closer, is yet another of the album’s most notable entries. When it is considered along with ‘We’re All Right,’ ‘Hurricane,’ and the rest of the album’s songs – all of which stand on their own merits – the whole of Creatures proves itself to be among the best of this year’s new independent albums.
Independent alt-country band Jack The Radio has crafted a unique new work in its fifth album Creatures that is fully deserving of being called one of this year’s top new independent albums. Its musical arrangements span the musical universe while its lyrical themes will reach just as many listeners if not more than its musical arrangements. ‘We’re All Right’ is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statements. This song’s musical arrangement is a solid bluesy, guitar-driven southern rock composition that easily lends itself to comparisons to works from Joe Bonamassa. The arrangement’s bass line is a fine counterpoint to the guitar, and together with the flare added through the time keeping and cymbal crashes is enriched even more. The use of the backing choral vocals adds yet another level to the whole. The combination of all of those elements makes this song, which barely passes the three-minute mark, makes this arrangement stand out as one of the album’s strongest works. The song’s lyrical theme works well with the musical arrangement to make the song stand out even more.
The lyrical theme featured in this song comes across as delivering a message of trying not to let the state of the world let one get one’s self down. This is inferred in the song’s lead verse as front man George Hage sings, “Sky’s been busy/Busy falling down/But the world keeps movin’/Start spinning around/Your dirty living/And your dirty shoes/Try to keep your hands clean/We got work to do/With a pocket full of nothin’/We were living alright/nothing to lose/We know/We know we’re alright.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Maybe next time/We won’t move so fast/’Cause heavy handed always leaves a mess/This dirty livin’/Just to get by/We are all creatures/Just trying to survive/We’ll be making habits/We could be the line/See, the world keeps moving/So we know/We know we’re alright. Again, this points in the direction of a positive message that we can’t let things happening in the world get us down. We have to keep reminding ourselves the despite everything, we’re going to be alright. If in fact that is the message, then it is a positive way in itself to deliver such a message that everyone needs to hear. Together with its companion musical content, that positive lyrical theme is even more certain to connect with listeners. That collective strength of the song’s musical and lyrical content shows clearly why ‘We’re All Right’ is a positive addition to Creatures. It is just one of the album’s most notable works, too. ‘Hurricane is notable in its own right in exhibiting the album’s strength.
‘Hurricane’ presents a musical arrangement that is the polar opposite of that featured in ‘We’re All Right.’ Right from the outset of the nearly three minute opus, audiences can make a comparison to Tom Petty’s hit song ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ and even to Steve Miller’s ‘Space Cowboy.’ That is thanks to the song’s guitar line. The bridge even presents a guitar solo that is nearly the same as that in ‘Space Cowboy.’ It is not a direct rip-off of the guitar lines in those songs, but the similarity in the songs is undeniable. Drummer Kevin Rader’s time keeping plays its own part here, while Dan Grinder’s bass line adds the final touch to the whole. All things considered here, the arrangement is a feel good presentation in its own right that will entertain audiences just as much as any of the album’s other arrangements. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s equally (seemingly) optimistic lyrical theme adds to that positive vibe.
The seemingly positive vibe comes right in the opening refrain of the song’s chorus, which leads off the song. It states, “We’ve been living in your hurricane/Still spinnin’ in your hurricane/We’ve been living in your hurricane/What’s a matter/What’s a matter/Lost my way/But/I’ve been playing with broken matches/That don’t matter ‘cause the sun’s got ashes/Got so high that I lost my head/Now I’m stuck living inside my head/People say that the sunshine heals/All I say is the way I feel/There’s no telling what comes next/The world’s still spinnin’ and I’m not dead yet.” It’s as if he is saying that he is living his life, even despite what others say and do. He continues in the song’s second verse, “Old shoes and worn sunglasses/Kept up with my six string axes/You got too high that you lost your dress/Jumped in the pool/Now your hair’s a mess/Can’t find where I put my time/Penny for your thoughts before you drop that dime/Tried runnin’ but I lost my breath/So I’m stuck living in my head.” This second verse is interesting in its own way. That note of offering thoughts before someone does something (dropping a dime is often a drug reference) all seems to be about people doing things without thinking. Taking this seeming inference into consideration along with the possible conversation in the song’s lead verse, the whole of the song’s lyrical theme is sure to get audiences talking. Together with the song’s musical subdued musical arrangement, that discussion is even more certain to talk. That overall engagement and entertainment shows even more why this song stands out among the album’s songs. It is just one more of the album’s most notable works. ‘Secret Cities,’ the album’s closer, is one more way in which the album exhibits its strength.
The musical arrangement at the center of ‘Secret Cities’ forms the foundation for this work. That is because it is yet another unique presentation in itself. Its gentle, flowing mix of keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, vocals and auxiliary percussion immediately lends this arrangement to comparisons to works from Bruce Springsteen, and to a lesser extent Sting. More specifically, the arrangement can be compared to Springsteen’s 1995 hit song ‘Secret Garden’ and Sting’s 1993 hit song ‘Fields of Gold.’ As with other songs featured in the album, this arrangement is not a direct copy of those songs, but is close enough in its stylistic approach and sound that such comparison cannot be ignored. Compared to the album’s heavy, bluesy opener ‘Electric Haze,’ it is a fitting finale for the record, being such a contrast. That subtle approach also plays well into the song’s seeming contemplative lyrical theme, which sans lyrics sheet to reference is a little bit difficult to decipher at some points.
Hage sings in the song’s lead verse, Walking by the water/Listening to the sound/the city’s breathing/Commotion all around/I hold my solace/You hold your ground/Never leaving/This moment…” He continues in the song’s second verse, “So many stories/So many towns/Gonna travel/Just to listen to the sounds/I’ll be your secret/If you’re my…The city’s calling/Takes me to the crowd.” Again, some of the lyrics are tough to decipher without a lyrics sheet to reference. Even with that in mind, this critic will still admit this is a deeply metaphorical statement that is difficult to decipher. On one level, one could argue that maybe this is a work that talks about so much going on in the world and people living in their own little worlds (secret cities), yet even despite that, the song’s subject is appreciating the simpler things in life. Of course that is just one person’s interpretation. It should not be taken as gospel. The fact that it could potentially be that or even create so much discussion means it is a strong work in its own right, being that it is so open to interpretation. That means the band did its job here just as much as in any of the album’s other works. When this is taken into consideration along with the strength of the album’s other works noted here and not, the album overall becomes a work that any roots rock (and even alt-country) fan will appreciate.
Jack The Radio’s latest full-length studio recording Creatures is a positive new offering from the independent roots rock band. From its beginning to its end, the 44-minute album’s musical content lends itself to comparison to works from so many other acts while remaining their own unique presentations in their own right. The comparisons can be made throughout to acts, such as Reckless Kelly, Joe Bonamassa, Tom Petty, Steve Miller, Bruce Springsteen and Sting, just to name a handful of comparable acts. The album’s lyrical themes range from the very personal to the societal and more. That is evidenced in the songs examined here and even in the album’s current singles. All things considered, the album offers audiences a lot to appreciate. Keeping that in mind, the album becomes one of the year’s top new independent albums.
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