Jake Fletcher – Jake Fletcher
CD / DL
Out 23 December 2019
Jake Fletcher is a man of many talents. Having been part of underground Manchester bands Gramotones and Cupids, he’s toured with The Specials, Steve Cradock and PP Arnold whilst working on this long-awaited debut solo album that’s taken years to see the light of day as he’s juggled real life and paying the bills with the considerable demands on his time from the music business. The self-titled album is more than worth the wait and sets him up centre stage to get the recognition he deserves.
Jake Fletcher is a man with something to say. Opening track No One Talks captures perfectly the malaise that is destroying the fabric of our society as we know it and attacks the fact that the black or white, red or blue echo chambers of social media that have destroyed any possibility of civilised debate. Within seconds Jake declares “when you think of all the things this country could become, it feels like you’re taking a step back, turn around and run” and dives head first into the trip that takes us from “goodbye Grossbritannien, hello divided kingdom of crap” with no one talking about a workable solution and compromise. It distills the country’s ills into a three-minute song with more articulate and compassionate argument than you’d get in a million keyboard warrior tweets.
Power Never Changes ponders the way politicians use their authority to protect their position, whichever side of the fence they might sit. It takes particular aim at Bush and Blair and their war-making to an apocalyptic soundtrack, but it’s not just empty soap-boxing as it searches for solutions and opens up the question to the listener as to what we’re going to do – “We’re using fear as a weapon, then we’re blaming different races, when the common word that’s measured is the greatest of nouns. It’s power and it never changes… How do people like us change the wind, change the air?”
It’s not just an album about politics, it’s about living life in the modern world. P45 is about starting a new job and then hating it – “happy in your work? well I think you’re in denial, into a job, but killing yourself” – and the uplifting feeling of escaping the day-to-day drudgery by walking out with a P45 in hand. Musically it’s complex, jumping around in pace and style yet still feeling very much one piece and the pace keeping track to the tale that’s being told.
Fairwelfare System is stripped back to an acoustic guitar and a rich emotive vocal from Jake about the downward spiral the supposed safety net of the uncaring welfare system can send you down – “they will leave you there to rot.” With the events of the past few weeks and the lurch towards the Conservatives in working class areas, it’s hopefully not a portent of worse things to come.
Cover In A Storm is a long-time favourite of people who’ve followed Jake’s career, having appeared in a simple stripped-down piano version on one of Cupids’ EPs a few years back. It’s simply too good a song to leave behind in a few iTunes libraries and this version has blossomed into a beautiful centre-piece of the album. It builds, forms a comfort blanket around the listener with the warmth in how it slowly evolves into something more ambitious and expansive, harmonies and backing vocals lifting it up further before it drops back down to just the piano, all in less than three minutes.
“People are no longer human, we are like a disease, spreading like a virus, vaccinate me please” is the opening line to People Are No Longer Human as the album picks up pace again, a song studded with guitar riffs and more uplifting harmonies which together give a really timeless classical feel that’s beyond many of his contemporaries. That’s testament to Jake’s attention to detail and almost encyclopedic musical knowledge that he can cram so much into a song – that finishes with a thirty second instrumental that has little connection to the three minutes that’s preceded it, but which still fits in.
Feels So Wrong sees Jake in introspective mood, considering the choices he’s made in his life so far in the pursuit of his ambitions – “when you cling to a scene, the less you belong to the real world and it feels so wrong” – and compares it to his friends who own houses while he still lived at home with his mum although he counters it with still feeling young in comparison. It possesses more guitar riffs and hooks, one of the more straight-forward songs on the record musically, but very much in line with the intent of the song.
Duracell clocks in at five minutes plus and once again is full of introspection, all the rejections, all the “time spent dicking around” being dealt with a refreshing honesty as he concludes he’s been “fighting outside from inside” rather than facing the issues. There’s an emotional intelligence running through the lyrics, a sensibility that’s often missing these days as the business targets hit and run focus tracks rather than the narrative. “I write music for me and it’s great therapy” feels like a message that can apply to both the artist and listener and is expressed so simply yet is mightily impactful and can be translated to different situations. There’s an important life lesson towards the end as well – “if you don’t like this music, or you don’t like me, then why should I give a fuck?”
The album finishes with I Might Feel Better, an ode to finding time to be on your own and coming to terms with your own feelings. One of the most striking things across the album is the way Jake can adjust the tone in his voice to add emphasis to what he’s singing and here he’s imparting a world-weariness, tired with the day-to-day and wanting to have the space and solitude and doing in a way that everyone can relate to. Guitars shift in and out, harmonies float around as Jake mulls over the desire for solitude.
Jake Fletcher feels like a record that only scratches the surface of a phenomenal talent, full of musical and lyrical ideas crammed in tight yet which never threaten to suffocate each other, but which hint at the possibilities of much more to come. Given the long gestation period of the record and his relentless desire to create and perform that’s no surprise at all, but this record should be taken at face value for what it is – an impressive debut where the quality of the musicianship and the articulate nature of the words never drops, an anger is expressed at the state of the world without empty posturing or blinkered idealism and there’s compassion for his fellow man and an honest evaluation of where his own life is and how he’s got to that point.
The album is launched with a show at Night People in Manchester next Monday (23 December), tickets are available in advance via this link.
Signed CDs of the album are available from Jake’s online store.
All words by David Brown