Just Jack

Overtones

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    8
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Four-plus years passed between Just Jack's debut, The Outer Marker, and his sophomore effort, Overtones. That's plenty of time for an U.K. garage rapper to fall out of favor -- especially when the Streets are burning up most folks' patience for the genre like it was flash paper -- and to make matter worse, Just Jack (real name Jack Allsopp) had to crawl over a heaping pile of criticism that his rhymes were whack after he climbed out of his four-year hole. Shocking everyone, this "slackadaisical" wonder overcame it all and was climbing charts and selling out shows as soon as Overtones was released in the U.K., thanks in part to Jack's being a friend of the oh-so-hot-in-2006 Lily Allen along with the hooks, the effortless delivery, and a general need for something softer and more hopeful than garage and grime normally offer. While Overtones is filled with moon-June-spoon-prune rhyme schemes and meaningless bits of slang, it all sits on a bed of instantly grabbing melody and smart arrangements. His lyrics aren't as bad as you've been sold, but his slumped shoulder delivery and the "I wore this same hoodie yesterday" way about him do make him a love-'em-or-hate-'em proposition. Those who love him are blessed with a generally positive album that's just made for sunny days and convertibles with kicking sound systems, not that Jack would ever admit he could afford one. The big hit single "Starz in Their Eyes" high karate kicks young hipsters with lyrics like "You used to be satisfied/Now you feel like Mick Jagger," while the good-feeling "Glory Days" comes right out and says "Dammit, I'm in love with this planet," backing up this statement with a properly bright horn section. Most of the lyrical content is closer to the latter than the former -- minus "Lost," which is heavy, misplaced, and thematically out of reach for Jack -- and the music is closer to Jamiroquai than the Streets or Dizzee Rascal. Add to it "Hold On"'s "You know you're getting older/When the kids on the corner/Get you baffled every time they speak" and that's practically the formula for hipster poison, begging for potshots. Overtones doesn't care about cool and would rather be an unaffected album, worth returning to anytime the uptight world needs to be shaken off.

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