‘British Road Movies’ feels like it has no boundaries or restrictions, countless styles and big-wig influences flowing through the record, and a far greater pot of experiences for Jackson to draw from thanks to her near-decade away.
‘Lie To Me’ could soundtrack a breezy, windows-down drive across these isles on a sunny day, while ‘Last Of The Dreamers’ belongs on a cold night; impressively, they’re both delivered in the least cheesy way possible.
‘British Road Movies’ acts as a love letter to a country Jackson couldn’t quite leave behind, brought to life perfectly by the now-familiar grandeur of producer Bernard Butler.
Travelling from soaring guitar pop to downbeat, piano-led creeping, ‘British Road Movies’ feels like a trip in the truest sense, and representative of that which Jackson herself has gone on: from leader of one of Britain’s most sorely missed bands, via eight years out of the game, to returning as one of its most intriguing new solo artists.
It’s an album that sums up the mantra ‘good things come to those who wait’. There’s not a bad track on British Road Movies, and those who have been pining for years to hear Jackson’s voice again will be more than satisfied. It may not be the return of the Long Blondes, but this could evolve into something even better.
Musically, ‘British Road Movies’ takes its cues from ‘Someone To Drive You Home’, The Long Blondes’ new wave-influenced debut, rather than its Italo-focused successor, the patchy ‘Couples’. This means Jackson’s voice – always powerful but never overdoing it – can take centre stage, which is probably for the best. The guitars are as choppy as you would want, but often there seems to be a disconnect present, in a similar way to how Morrissey’s solo albums miss the spark of Johnny Marr. This is made all the more surprising considering the guitarist in question is Bernard Butler.
The aforementioned ‘16 Years’ is where everything comes together though. It’s potentially a companion piece to Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’, telling a different story of two people who grew up together but have gradually drifted apart. Jackson’s narrator travelled the world and has only memories to show for it, whereas her counterpart married, had children and settled into domesticity. Both envy facets of the other’s life, and there’s the heart-rending dichotomy of their realisation that they’ll always be friends, but due to what they went through years ago rather than any recent shared experiences. Here, Butler judges his accompaniment just right, as his melody line bobs and weaves its way through the chorus, recalling his best work on Suede’s peerless debut LP.
While ‘British Road Movies’ can’t quite match the shock of the new provided by The Long Blondes’ early material, it’s a strong and confident comeback, and better than we’d any right to expect from someone who hasn’t been involved in an album release for over eight years. We’re lucky to have her – the world of music is a better place with Kate Jackson in it.