Reviewed – Jack Cattell – The Orchestral EP

Rating – 4/5

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Locked Away – The Orchestral EP is Jack Cattell’s middle finger to the lockdown.

For those living under the biggest of rocks the Coronavirus and resultant lock down restrictions have had a devastating blow on many industries but none more than the live music industry.

With no chance of gigs or rehearsals it’s been a very insular time for an industry that thrives on people being able to come together. Well Jack got together with local producer Sam Stringer and brought out a physical copy only EP that features unheard tracks. A very cool way to pick things up as we (hopefully) start to see the end of this pain in the arse virus.

We open with “Bigger Bottles”. It’s not like you’ll have heard Jack before.  The Orchestral part is in evidence straight away. It doesn’t add complexity but serves to highlight the raw emotion of the vocals that Jack delivers. It’s an anthemic track, full of hope and power. It echoes the Verve of old and elements of the orchestral notes serve to make this even more of an apt comparison. The strings give it an ethereal quality which contrasts wonderfully with the coarsity and honest emotivity of the vocals. The piano gives it an almost soundtrack vibe when combined with the orchestral strings, and it gives it a redemption achieved sensibility. Like the film’s hero has finally realised what it is that they need to do.

“The World Keeps Turning” is up next and it begins with the piano right out the gate. This is more sombre in tone from the beginning, and yet it builds and brings you out of the darker tone and back up to something much more empowered and affirming. Lyrically it’s harder. “They don’t love you anymore” is perhaps as hard to hear as any phrase in any language. However, the music and the building strings that hide behind the main piano melody give you a hope and a sense that it’s a temporary set back and you’re already building back to something happier.

Jack’s vocal is all power and yet never overreaches itself and smothers the melody. It’s still raw but not in delivery, purely in it’s emotive intent. A great ballad for reflection on an emotion most have shared or felt. The lullaby-like glockenspiel ending is a delightful little nuance that sees out the track.

“Without You” comes in at number three and almost disappointingly it’s not a Harry Nilsson cover. It is as the title may suggest, a highly emotive number. Again there is no pain without hope. This is not so much the end of a relationship but the start of one. It’s at that stage where the music stops and you have to decide whether to stay on or get off. The protagonist is playing every card to convince the other person that they are in for the long haul, and that they wouldn’t know what they would do without them. It’s not so much a sugary sweet love song which would be an easy trap to fall into considering the construct of the song, but it retains all the power and honesty that pervades Jack’s work and the lyrics work far better because of it. The paired back vibe gives it the feel of a one on one conversation and of course that fits the lyric perfectly.

London Town, the most recent single from Jack and the band, is presented in a different way here. The story is a personal one, about dropping a girlfriend off in London while they return back home. It’s even more emotive and honest with there just being the piano and the vocal. 

It gives the song nowhere to hide and at the same time brings out the beautiful core of it. 

As if designed to be heard in such a minimalist way this is a proper tearjerker of a track without any of the window dressing or needless schmaltz that can often pervade this sort of effort. If you aren’t on board with Jack’s vocals by now then you pretty much never will be. You’ll be worse off for it too. If you’ve just been through a break up though perhaps leave this one a bit.

“Just Another Love Song” is the track that plays us out. This is more of a classic love song, as the title handily suggests. The strings are more of a classic note too, and give it a slightly rose tinted feel. Not exactly unwelcome but it definitely dresses it up slightly more than the rest of the EP. This song comes from the middle of a relationship. It’s got a clear feel of explanation and almost apology that you can’t get away from in any relationship that hopes to be a lasting one, and yet it’s resounding with the heartfelt and straightforward vibes that are the trademark of Jack’s sound.

All in all the EP is way more than a little gap fill. It’s more fulfilling and rewarding than a little snack before tea that will just about do to hold you over. It’s a great exploration of an already good body of work. Jack said in our recent interview that he’s not so worried about the songs, that he felt the quality was there to push him and the band on. He’s absolutely right and this changed up delivery has paired them right back, given them nowhere to hide, and they’ve absolutely shone as a result.

Definitely check this out.  Yes it means parting with some cash to get hold of a physical copy but surely that’s what we all love about music anyway? A perfect antidote to the eminent disposability of music, to the god damn lockdown, and a final note to the whole shit show of the last 12 months that we’re quite done with it all now.

If you can’t get hold of this then get hold of a ticket to see Jack and the band at the next gig you can. You won’t regret it.

Review by Jim Clinch

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