Wilf Skinner reviews Jerkcurb at The Lexington
Jerkcurb is the moniker of South London musician and illustrator Jacob Read. On Wednesday night, he and his band headed north and brought the Voodoo Saloon to King’s Cross.
He opens with Shadowshow, a brooding track that combines pulsating rhythms with fluttery chords, and follows up with another unreleased song, the brilliantly-titled Air Con Eden, about ‘air conditioning in an art shop’. Eerie Somerton Beach references the Taman Shud case, in which an unknown man in ‘suit and tie’ washed up on the South Australian coast in 1948. Meanwhile on Midnight Snack, he sings about the comfort of ‘peanut butter and jelly’ over languid chords. Some of the music dates back several years and goes down well amongst a sold-out crowd doubtless including fans who had been there since the beginning. In fact, this was only Read’s third full-band show as he tends to play solo with a loop pedal. Having attended the first outing of the group at Electrowerkz back in March, I thought this performance was even slicker (the chat between songs being a reassuring exception), and the band was excellent: the drumming at times recalled early Broadcast, and the extra vocals and synths help to transcend the bedroom feel of some of his recordings.
Across his oeuvre there is an interplay between the humdrum and the otherworldly which manifests itself in both the lyrical content and the music underneath; he wavers between bluesy motifs (Little Boring Thing), quasi-crooning and more self-conscious, subtle chord progressions, but there is definitely a unity to his singular vision. Central to this is the notion of the Voodoo Saloon, ‘a theme park version of Wetherspoons, a juxtaposition of cultures and ideas, making little sense’. The Voodoo Saloon is clearly also a world in which a reverb pedal is constantly switched on and set to max, but that’s unlikely to raise anyone’s hackles. It also gives its name to his most recent release (watch the video here) which, with its twists and turns and slide guitar, is something you would perhaps find in one of the dark, cobwebbed corners.
Night on Earth rounds off the show. Its noirish mix of jazzy chords builds into a lofty crescendo where he imagines meeting the ‘girl of [his] dreams’ at the end of the world. Here the dual female backing vocals bring another dimension to his sound – live, it is even more like something you’d hear at the Roadhouse. Jerkcurb is a different beast to Horsey, another band Read plays in: less frenetic, a bit more tempered, the kind of thing your parents could listen to. Indeed, the top comment on the video for Night on Earth reads:
“Old times are backing again? It´s Jazzing…sounds Chet Baker….Sinatra.. Tom Jobim…Pure Style… To fuck to kiss.to chills..to drink a vodca..blue Moon Rio de Janeiro Chigaco ou Budapeste. Tres chiquê!”
However, he combines this with a penchant for the weird and unsettling and, quite often, the beautiful, which really makes quite a lot of sense.
Featured image: Elena Isolini