Jack Cheshire – Black Light Theatre (Loose Tongue Records)

The first album in four years by the English singer-songwriter is well worth the wait

Released Nov 17th, 2017 via Loose Tongue Records / By Norman Miller
Jack Cheshire – Black Light Theatre (Loose Tongue Records) You can't accuse singer-songwriter Jack Cheshire of taking his craft lightly, given the year or so he and his band mates - David Pearson (guitar), Andrea Di Biase (double bass) and Jon Scott (drums) – spent polishing the ten numbers on this patiently awaited follow-up album to 2013’s well-received Long Mind Hotel.

'The music was in a state of flux,' says Cheshire. 'We drafted, redrafted and lived with different versions of the songs.' Rather than feeling overworked, the result is a honing of Cheshire's distinctive fusion of quirky psychedelia with the sharp lyrics that add him in a line of English songwriting names like Ray Davies, 10CC and The Divine Comedy. Cheshire himself cites Grizzly Bear and Television as influences, to which you might add Pavement's Stephen Malkmus and Beck.

The production by PJ Harvey/Bat for Lashes knob-twiddler Rob Ellis captures songs whose nuances repay each listen. Cheshire seems equally happy switching between big sound and intimacy. So the Jake Bugg-like riffing of Loom gives way to the downbeat reflectiveness of the title track, followed in turn by the brilliant uptempo dark trippiness of Nerve, with its poetic images of how 'rivers of light/bled from the stars'.

The resonant melancholy of the beautiful Grandfather Clock conjures early Elbow, while there's a winsome bittersweet charm to The Incidentals like Coldplay at their best. The opener Visitations is a piece of gossamer wonder.

On an album with several standout tracks, perhaps the best is the single Sweet Yellow Moon, veering brilliantly between haunted beauty to jerky sprightliness as the lyric meditates - perhaps - on life and afterlife.
Cheshire shows a more experimental side, meanwhile, on the instrumental Reality Tunnels that weaves discordant double bass into something that sounds almost like jazz rock. This is a quietly impressive album whose best songs are at once cleverly reflective and effortlessly catchy in a very English way.