Jack Name – Weird Moons

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Jack Name – Weird Moons

Every now and again I get an album that I like and dislike in equal proportions without really being able to put my finger on exactly why it has had that sort of affect on me. I’ve had that kind of reaction about a Swans album, about music by more mainstream people like Robbie Williams and Pulp, about electronica by Orbital, Underworld and others, about The Flaming Lips and The White Stripes. I sort of go ‘yes, I get what you’re doing and I can appreciate it, but I didn’t necessarily really enjoy listening to it, partly for that reason.’ Something about how I listen to music and how I react to certain musical signs and wonderments that occasionally has me writing reviews that don’t accurately reflect my own opinions, because I don’t believe in just dismissing a band and their music when it doesn’t inspire and enthuse me at a first listen. Or there are other reasons.

I put Weird Moons onto my player and decided that I liked what I was hearing, a keyboard riff borrowed from a Zappa album, a sludgy funk rhythm, the soundtrack to one of those surreal cartoons that turn up in my newsfeed every so often. I kept listening and I started getting the ‘yes/no’ response: partly, this is down to the albums production which, if you listen to Weird Moons in its entirety very accurately conveys the authentic sound of a cassette tape that has been gathering dust in an attic since around 1995, at least. Then there’s the actual music, which draws upon the Zappa band, Devo, the Residents and 80s new wave for its influences, to a point where it could convincingly have been labelled as the remastered tapes of Oingo Boingo’s unreleased third album, or something just as obscure, authentically resembling a painstakingly restored session from a studio outtake box of more than two decades previously as it does. I kept listening. The vocals aren’t always very audible and while the actual music takes some interesting turns it shuffles along partly muted by the monoaural production, which while it gives Weird Moons a cohesion from one track to the next really does sound like it was recorded on the oldest working equipment Jack Name and his associates could find. A bit more aural clarity and the album would work just as well as it does, plus we’d get to hear more of the backing musicianship instead of the actual equipment which that was recorded on, although it also seems that everything about Weird Moons has been put together deliberately, and it does sound like more than a month or two went into its recording.

I kept listening and after several attempts to EQ the album to my own preferences I decided to just listen to what Jack Name wants me to hear. If I’d delved into my own collection for something similar (I’ve one or two jazz albums that sound as if they were recorded underwater from the 1950s) it would have been purely for my own entertainment and while I cannot say that Weird Moons isn’t worth the price of admission or that Jack Name goes a bit too far along the route marked ‘retro sound quality and studio in-jokes’ after a third listen I was starting to wonder exactly what the reason for the existence of any of the tracks on Weird Moons,  from “Werewolf Factory” to “Something About Glenn Goins” actually was. I can accept that a lot of ability, effort and actual talent has gone into its making. I can also accept that Jack Name has made an album that he wants to and that other people are going to like it with fewer reservations than I do or don’t have about it.  There will also be those that, after the first 20 or so seconds of “Werewolf Factory” will take it off their stereo and Jack Name will also know this, so I must appreciate his actual bravery in releasing the album that he has, which will get as many (maybe more) dislikes as likes.

Alternately brilliant and infuriating, Weird Moons is an album that takes more chances than is usual, that kept me listening from beginning to end more than once, and that has the sort of deceptively eccentric vibe that’s the sign of considerable talent(s) at work. It is also deeply annoying and slightly unnerving, but that has been said about a lot of musicians and albums throughout history, and Jack Name’s efforts have earned him a niche alongside some large reputations, of whom only some were actually Weird and you’ll know at a first listen if you wish to pursue such carefully contrived luminosity for its complete 30 or so minutes. I thought it was longer than that, but that’s just my opinions getting in each other’s ways again.

Castle Face Records