As a Jade Bird fan and someone who has been following her career closely so far, I looked at the tracklisting and was disappointed not to find anything from her first EP. It’s a shame ‘Cathedral’ and ‘What Am I Here For’ won’t get the wider attention that this album is destined to bring. The reason why I was disappointed was because these two songs perfectly illustrate the two different sides of Jade’s songwriting and singing: the soft and the strong. Fortunately, the newer tracks on the album do justice to both.
If this is your first time listening to Jade you won’t believe that voice comes out of someone so small and so young. When she gets hold of a chorus you can’t help but be wowed by how she belts it out without a care. You’d think she’d cut her musical teeth with a glass of whisky in smoke filled blues bars along the Mississippi. ‘I get no joy’ is a stand out track and a stand out example of what I mean. The same goes for ‘Uh Huh’, ‘Lottery’ and ‘Love Has All Been Done Before’. It reminds me of the acoustic version of the Beatles’ ‘Why don’t we do it in the road’ with John doing a similar belting job (although admittedly much more out of tune than Jade) while Paul dicks about with falsetto. And we all agree which of that pair was the best one. Don’t we?
There’s something of Alanis in there too. ‘Good At It’ has discernible parallels with ‘You Oughta Know’. Jade’s not as angry as Ms Morrisette on Jagged Little Pill, and the protagonists in her love stories seem to be fictional rather than personal catharsis, but the same energy comes through.
‘Side Effects’ is a classic driving song, at least in a romanticised image of windows down, aviators on and hitting the highway. Here, Jade shows off her ability in crafting a pop song. Her earlier singles sometimes had the tendency to reveal themselves in an obvious way. She’s got a formula nailed down and has developed it artfully when making the album, leaving this naïvety behind.
‘My Motto’ is a sorrowful and hopeful anthem with mass singalong potential and builds to a stadium chorus. It borders on the cheesy though and reminds us that she is at her best with just a guitar in her hands – she doesn’t need the string section.
Like ‘My Motto’, several songs on the album take a wry and optimistic look at breakups. On a cursory listen, you might easily miss the hurt in her lyrics. But with the music added we, and seemingly Bird, come out the other side with smiles on our faces. You’d be gutted if you were dumped with the line ‘1, 2, 3, 4, come on babe, there’s the door…4, 3, 2, 1, he’s going, going, gone’, but as Jade’s love of Americana comes to the fore in ‘Going Gone’, you can’t help but enjoy her politely British version of a hoe-down.
Towards the end we get to hear the softer side of Jade Bird. With their stripped back instrumentation ‘17’ and ‘If I Die’ reveal a tender tone in the verse but expose her vocals a little too much on the chorus.
It’s a more than solid debut. Where in places it may sound immature or even naïve, lyrically it is much more than that. She has the voice, the talent and youth on her side to mature, I believe, into even stronger work in future. Dismiss her as mere pop act at your peril.
Words by James Spearing.