Image of Jackie-O

Image of Jackie-O

Image of Jackie-O
Somnambule - Writing About Music

Jackie-O Motherfucker

Barden's Boudoir, Thursday 17th May

Barden’s Boudoir turns out to be a wide, narrow basement beneath the derelict furniture store from which it takes its name. The club is situated in the no man’s land between London’s Stoke Newington and Dalston, a nowhere that rather surprisingly turns out to have a name (Shacklewell). How former Wire coverstars, the improbably named Jackie-O Motherfucker, come to be playing here isn’t clear, but here they are, a world away from their hometown Portland, Oregon. Behind tonight’s two support acts stands an unusual array of instruments. When Jackie-O eventually take their places, it becomes clear that each member is paired with a table of assorted soundmaking tools. The two men at the back of the low stage, replete with floppy shoulder-length hair and identical t shirts, stand behind horizontal guitars which they play through a variety of effects pedals and menace with cheap electrical toys. The woman, front left, occasionally sings but mostly plays percussion using small, suspended chimes and other less identifiable items. These three are later announced to be the trio My Cat Is An Alien, frequent collaborators with Jackie-O. Jon Greenwood at the front right of the stage, plays guitar, sings and puts on records which prove inaudible, at least to the audience.

For the first ten minutes or so, there’s a sustained, tentative humming and occasional scratching that doesn’t appear to go nowhere. From this doubtful beginning they proceed to hang around, drift together and apart again like slow-motion flotsam that’ll never see the sea. Occasionally, despondent voices raise themselves reluctantly above a murmur and then give up the ghost. It’s as if the four of them are waiting for something, but with little hope of anything actually happening. Gradually though, the sounds they are making gather slowly together despite the odds. That accretion becomes a haunted, haunting wail of sound which proves to be all the more powerful because of the forlorn lassitude that preceded it. Next Greenwood weaves a gently benevolent trance out of a hypnotic guitar line and muttered vocals. For their finale piece they transmute near nothingness into a sudden storm in a desert of the mind. Jackie-O communicate a very American sense of desolation, loss and widescreen expansiveness. From their intent, smallscale activities they conjure delicate wasteland atmospheres that are frequently very beautiful. They should be first in line to soundtrack the film of William Burroughs’ Place Of Dead Roads. It’s a movie that will probably never be made, but it should be. Either way, its unlikely prospect hangs in the air like the promise of Jackie-O Motherfucker’s music.

Colin Buttimer
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