Review Summary: Catchy, vaguely Streets-esque pop, done with consummate skill.
Though still rather obscure outside of the UK, Jack Allsopp, AKA Just Jack, will be familiar to many people as the voice behind 'Starz in Their Eyes', a prescient, catchy critique of the modern obsession with celebrity. Sadly, the admittedly patchy album that followed it, 'Overtones', failed to repeat the single's success, and so Allsopp had fallen out of the public consciousness somewhat by the time this album was released back in 2009. Which was a shame, as 'All Night Cinema' is by far his best album to date, finding a new consistency to match his fusion of hip hop, dance and singer - songwriter pop.
Though comparisons to Mike Skinner/The Streets would seem fairly accurate at first - Allsopp shares a similarly colloquial, casual rapping voice and his lyrics deal with broadly alike themes - he is also a much stronger singer (which isn't exactly hard), and emphasizes the pop leaning elements of his music much more than Skinner, at the cost of some of The Streets' hard edged grittiness. The fantastic opener, 'Embers', is a good illustration of this: over a deliciously melodramatic string loop, Allsopp layers different sets of his own vocals on top of each other, creating a kaleidoscopic effect that is really something as the song builds up to a great climax. Alas, the song was also featured on a Sky Sports ad, but you can't have everything.
Though the rest of the album struggles to match the impact of the opener, musically speaking, the whole first half of the album is pretty much flawless as catchy pop songs go. Songs like the bouncy, driving '253' manage to be supremely listenable while incorporating such wry gems as 'She had nothing that I needed/so over the years our love receded/just like her old man's hairline...and mine'. In fact, lyrically, the album is much stronger than it's predecessors, a case in point being another side one highlight, 'Blood', with it's matter-of-fact tale of the aftermath of a knife attack. It's a measure of the artist's development that such a track would have almost certainly been somewhat embarrassing had he tried it on his previous albums.
Despite again being very catchy, 'Blood' in particular is a good example of the far more melancholy mood pervading the album compared to the blissed out feel of 'Overtones'. The album's biggest hit on release (and another stand-out) was 'The Day I Died', a bittersweet tale...of being run over by a bus. Even the most humorous track on the album, 'Goth In the Disco', ends with the eponymous character burning the eponymous building to the ground, people and all - 'Empty bottle/Dirty rag/Can of petrol/She's got a cocktail for these F**king slags' being the charming denouement. This track is also notable for it's straight dance/disco feel, which is also utilized to rather lesser effect on 'So Wrong', a misjudged vocoder experiment which is the only real misstep on the album.
Throughout the rest of the album, 'Doctor Doctor' is served well by it's dance-punk stylings, telling a cleverly rendered tale of barely hidden jealousy - 'she's not much verse/mostly chorus/between those ears/mostly sawdust'. 'Astronaut' dabbles in acoustic funk and benefits from another catchy chorus, and the title track sways woozily on a blanket of acoustic guitars and drum loops to pleasant effect. The concluding instrumental, 'Basement' almost sounds like a Vitalic track with it's surging bassline and 4 to the floor drums, though lacking the playfulness or flair of the Frenchman's productions.
Ok, so it's nothing new, and there are a few rather more forgettable tracks on the second half of the album, but there's certainly enough top-quality tunes and lyrical witticisms here to merit a place in anyone's collection. Also recommended for people looking for a slightly less hyperactive Jamie T.
Best Tracks - Embers, Doctor Doctor, The Day I Died, 253