The second EP from Bristol band The Jacques, The Artful Dodger, sticks to a formula similar to that of their debut collection Pretty DJ, yet has progressed into a grittier, more grown-up offering. Gone are the days of singing about lunchboxes and seaside arcades, which are instead dismissed in favour of unrequited love and unfulfilled societies. The frères Jacques have grown up.
The EP is still prevalent in its nods to those old influences, including The Jam and The Libertines, with the vocals of Fin Jacque sounding identical to a juvenile Pete Doherty. And in a similar vein to those bands, the subject matter of The Artful Dodger revolves around what it is to be young, broke and British – indeed, this focus is summed up in the aptly titled ‘This is England’, which sees Fin petulantly asking: ‘Well this is England, tell me what you’re proud of?‘, summing up the collective disillusionment felt by much of the younger generation towards an unforgiving state.
In fact this acerbic tone prevails across much of the EP; further proof of the progression The Jacques have experienced in their musical development. The music itself is more angry, especially in the title track, which seems to run on pure, undistilled anger, and the tracks are littered with profanities and distorted guitar solos. ‘Down and Out in London and Tokyo’ offers some lighter relief, with a jaunty bass intro and some ‘shoop-pe-doos’, before slowing down into a waltzing, indulgent ‘Radio America’-esque tune. Yet, for the rest of The Artful Dodger, the music is much darker and more introspective. This is especially clear on ‘Painkiller’, whose eerie riffs and massive chorus makes for a side not previously seen in The Jacques.
If the EP has a failing, it would be that the hooks and melodic prowess so effectively demonstrated on their first EP seems to have been somewhat lost in favour with the discovery of this new found anger. The melodies are spat out rather than sung, and while this adds to the fury of the collection, it’s hard not to long for the melodies of the first EP. That’s not to say that melodies are none existent, yet often the songs seem somewhat lacking, especially when it’s plain that it is purely a group of angry white boys having a rant. While plenty of musicians have done this in the past – and to great effect (think Paul Weller) – the message The Jacques seem to be attempting to put across is lost the confusion of their raging music.
This EP is a raucous, ramshackled, yet glorious mess. While not particularly innovative, their diet of The Strokes and Libertines have done them no harm. Oli Jacque is the unsung hero of this EP, with his killer bass lines driving plenty of the tracks along at a rip-roaring pace. With their youthful exuberance, and a penchant for pop hooks, The Jacques’ second EP is another milestone ticked off for the band. With a string of festival dates set for the summer, an album must surely be the next stop.