A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
With any songwriter, or artist in general, there’s a question about how much of yourself to give away to your audience. Some songwriters are naturally open, capable of taking on the most painful and honest emotions and sharing them without a hint of concealment. Many more artists are more guarded, wrapping up their truth in a web of poetry and disguise, giving the listener only snapshots of their truth. Sometimes this can be more rewarding, there’s a joy to discovering a songwriter’s story that you’ll never get with a heart on their sleeve, confessional songwriter spelling out their pain in giant letter for the whole world to see. A little deceit and pretence can make a songwriter’s sincerity all the sweeter.
Gallery 47 is a vessel for the songwriting talents of Jack Peachey and a revolving cast of largely Nottingham based backing musicians. Jack is set to release his third album, Clean, next month. Clean is the follow up to 2014’s All Will Be Well, an album that’s success saw Jack tour Europe in support of the somewhat unlikely figure of Paul Weller.
Jack has so far shared a pair of tracks from Clean in the shape of recent singles, Some Of You Don’t Get It and Mother’s Plan. These tracks suggest a gentle re-imagination of his previous folkish output, these tracks are warmer and richer in tone, recalling the likes of Chris Cohen or Pete Astor. This new sound seems to suit Gallery 47 down to a tee, his melancholic melodies and soft vocals ably supported by these warm, bitter-sweet backdrops.
Ahead of releasing his new album, Jack was kind enough to provide us with a mixtape of tracks he describes as, “moments of sensitivity and clarity from cryptic or guarded songwriters.” An insight into Jack as a songwriter, and an intriguing listen in its own right, these moments of sincerity remind us that at the heart of every great song, is a human being, as intriguing and flawed as every other one.
1. Neil Young – Good To See You
Last time Louise and I went to Amsterdam we caught Neil Young at the Ziggo Dome. I’d only seen him once before but my Dad had decided to quit smoking the same day so it was a bit stressful! The fourth song in was “Razor Love”, which led us to the album “Silver & Gold” – an album I hadn’t yet heard too much about. This is the title track, which I think is completely beautiful in its sensitivity and simplicity. Since then, if ever a bad mood strikes, this is the one!
2. Bob Dylan – Spirit On The Water
I’ve got this new day job in Bromley South. I get up at 5am and walk to London Bridge. Every morning, I listen, without exception, either to Love & Theft, Time Out Of Mind, or currently Modern Times. This is the second track on that last album. I don’t know who Dylan was talking to. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. It’s just such an honest track, and you can tell by the way he sings that he means, at least, the sentiment behind the words. It is difficult though, because it’s always easier to read your own meaning into a song. Perhaps it wasn’t honest or sincere at all, but I think it is.
3. Natalie Duncan – Lonely Child
I have a great respect for Natalie as a musician and as a person. She’s got that innate drive to create and persevere, whatever issues or stresses life should choose to throw at her. I remember a session Natalie recorded for a podcast called Poddingham at Paper Stone Studios in Nottingham. She played this song and again, just like Dylan, you could tell that she meant every word. Maybe it’s a cathartic ray of sunshine that one person’s troubles can make others feel better, just by having someone who seems to feel the same way.
4. The Beatles – Across The Universe
Much like my father, John Lennon causes me mixed feelings. I can’t quite forget some of the messed up stuff he’s done. I saw a clip of him recording “Oh Yoko” with Phil Spector, and he was so nasty to the sound man in it. He was like Stanley Kowalski on a drunken poker night. But that’s not everything is it. Songs like this one, for me at least, show that he was at heart a really intelligent, decent albeit troubled man. I think he was staring into the abyss in this one, wondering if he was ever going to see light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads – Dee
When I was growing up I heard “Bark at the Moon” on GTA Vice City and rushed out to buy a selection of Ozzy records from the 1980s. I’d been to Ozzfest at Castle Donnington as a very young, very smiley, semi-gothic child. I saw him playing with Zakk Wylde, but this one is from his time with Randy Rhoads. Ozzy isn’t anywhere on the track. Instead, it’s a dedication to his amazing guitarist (Rhoads) and great friend. So I put this one on the list because, aside from memorialising a great talent, it also cut through all the pentagrams and headless bats to show a pure soul underneath it all.
6. Paul Weller – You Do Something To Me
I only met Paul Weller a couple of times, but it was enough to cement a lot of respect from me to him. Not that I didn’t have respect for him before – in fact I had it in abundance – but because he could, given his iconic status, have treated everyone like a nobody if he wanted to. But he didn’t. He was the complete opposite. I chose this song because, like “Be Happy Children”, it shows a sensitivity and care to his character which is a counterbalance to the spiky-albeit-justified venom encoded in the lines of some of his most popular songs.
7. The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
I read an interview with Lou Reed recently and I thought he came across as quite an objectionable character. It was a Guardian article, originally about Ginger Baker from Cream. The journalist grouped the two musicians on account of their ferocious tendency to tear journalists apart. Since then, I listen to this song in a new way. Before I took it as loving, sad, forlorn. But now I think that was too idealistic. When I listen to this now I think of a man in love with someone who drives them completely up the wall.
8. Elliot Smith – Everything Reminds Me Of Her
I can get a bit upset listening to Elliott Smith because I wish he had known a better time of life. I think he was amazingly talented, very clever, and understandably disappointed with much of what life had to offer him. Often, he sings with bitterness in every word, like he needed his songs to act as witness, judge and jury to one of the many injustices and pressures he perceived himself to be facing. But this one isn’t about alcohol, his parents, or the hollow soul of the record industry. Instead it’s a personal, honest song about missing a girl. I think he was a really vulnerable guy and I’ve got so much respect for the way he puts himself out there in this one.
9. Jake Bugg – Saffron
Let’s get one thing straight. It’s tough to be an acoustic musician from the same city as another who becomes astronomically famous, all at a much younger age than you! But that said, I think Jake deserves everything he’s achieved and it makes me happy to see his face on my Amazon Music playlist. This song comes from an early session he did with Dean Jackson at BBC Radio Nottingham. It’s a beautiful little track which, though live, I think was captured perfectly.
10. Pavement – Here
Stephen Malkmus is a genius – I’m sure of it – and he said recently that he still regards Pavement’s raucous, tape-recorded debut as their best. I chose this one not because it’s my favourite song on the album but because it’s such a departure from the chaos from the rest of the record. I nearly just used the words “honest” and “simple” again, but I’m fairly sure I’ve used those too much by now. So I’ll leave it here.
Clean is out November 11th via AWAL (Artists Without A Label)/Bad Production Records.