Apparently it was Ian, the burly, ex-Navy gym trainer, that first introduced Brother J to Just Jack. It would make sense if it was him. As thick as two men, with a shaved head and hands that looked like they could tie fourteen types of knots and strangle you at the same time, Ian’s taste in music was bound to be eclectic. Just Jack, the now-36 year-old Camden Town, London local that looks something like what you would imagine the picture under ‘British, Male’ in the encyclopedia to look like, couldn’t be more out of left-field. As a pop star, Just Jack had his ‘Starz In Their Eyes‘ from 2007 sophomore album ‘Overtones’ reach number two in the UK pop charts. It sits at the intersection of [American roots band] Dispatch and disco glam with a bit of downtempo, dark rap thrown in, poking fun at the 15 minutes fascination of the greater population. As Just Jack’s highest charting single to date, ‘Starz’ is an ironic metacommentary on the man who eschews what it is to be a pop star in every sense.
‘Disco Friends’ captures the moodiest parts of ‘Starz’ and draws them out languidly. While most would make a fuss out of either talking up their ‘otherness’ or actively diminishing its significance, Just Jack appears to be exactly what it says on the box. He is neither ashamed of his normalcy nor attempting to exploit it to his advantage but rather, has a way of expressing the social commentary harboured by every Everyman in an accessible, effortlessly funky way. Kicking off with a half-speed slowdown of the catchy chorus to follow, ‘Disco Friends’ opens in a way that would be weird for most but suits Just Jack, who has hardly any time for genre conventions or traditional approaches to structure, to a tee. Half-talking, half-singing the tale of the unnamed girl with a whole lotta disco friends later, Just Jack is refreshingly unrushed in his storytelling and the song pans out with all the disregard for formula that you might expect from a guy half of who’s stage name is a qualifier.
Perhaps what I like most about ‘Disco Friends’ is the way an almost torpid beat belies the rich landscape of debauchery and hopeless circumstance that Just Jack describes the friendly girl finding herself in. In parts reminiscent of the psychedelic imagery employed most effectively by Hunter S. Thompson (with help from a hyper-real illustrator in Ralph Steadman), Just Jack paints a saturated picture of a club, replete with punters ‘eating their faces from the inside out’, music dripping from the walls and fish in a disco net, obviously. It is Just Jack’s ability to so simply pair wry insights with nonchalant delivery, set against a beat so natural it seems custom built for the tale, that invites escapism, making you forget the inherent intelligence that propels the track. Off ‘Overtones’ as well, ‘Disco Friends’ falls in with the album’s overarching theme of weighty tunes made to seem light – perfect for a couple of reps.
Just Jack – Disco Friends