Felt: The Pictorial Jackson Review (Cherry Red)

Creation’s freedom of artistic expression had to this point resulted in three diverse, unique Felt records, each one a singular vision, and often nothing like the album that preceded it. For their fourth album, The Pictorial Jackson Review, a familiar and frustrating issue arose once again: production missteps. After the unsatisfying time completing Poem Of The River, Felt wanted to get back to basics. Entering into the studio with Joe Foster, the band set about recording a handful of demos for their next record. Upon hearing the recordings, Alan McGee insisted that the songs were almost perfectly fine in their natural state, and that getting the album out ASAP would help build momentum.

Once again, Felt’s well-meaning experiment fell flat.

McGee wasn’t wrong; the songs found on The Pictorial Jackson Review certainly possess a certain charm in their rough, no-frills arrangements. Where early, Cherry Red-era Felt conjured up dark, moody atmospherics that fell in line with the darker side of contemporary post-punk, this album strips all of that away and replaces it with an indie–pop jangle, a style that was not quite trendy yet, but would soon become the norm in the British underground music scene. While the light and airy arrangement works on some numbers, on others it makes the songs feel weak and undercooked; the rawness works on “Don’t Die On My Doorstep” and “Apple Boutique,” but  “Christopher Street,” “Ivory Past,” and “How Spook Got Her Man” hint at the good songs they could become with a bit more development.  The highlight of the album, though, is “Under A Pale Light,” which starts off as a gentle ballad, but morphs into a fun “jam” with Martin Duffy letting rip on an absolutely delightful and playful organ melody. It’s an absolute joy to listen to,  and helps to make up for the rest of the album’s weaker spots.

Even though he might not have been completely happy with the finished product, it cannot be said that Lawrence didn’t totally dislikes the way it sounded, as The Pictorial Jackson Review feels like a precursor to his latest project, Go-Kart Mozart. It’s also worth noting that this new edition of the album has been edited; the original featured two instrumental Martin Duffy tracks on the second side of the album.  Those two numbers made the original album quite confusing, and though they are actually quite good, it is easy to understand why Lawrence excised them for this new addition. But in the grand scheme of things, those two songs were but a hint as to what was to come next…

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