Jack Cheshire – Black Light Theatre
17 November 2017 – Loose Tongue Records
Shimmering, eclectic, psychedelic, quirky…these are all words that spring to mind when hearing the opening chords of Jack Cheshire’s New CD Black Light Theatre.
The title refers to a theatrical performance witnessed as a child by writer Alexei Sayle, as described in his biography Stalin Ate My Homework during a childhood trip to communist Czechoslovakia. The play involved black screen, dimmed lights, and actors dressed all in black manipulating fluorescent props under UV lights. It appeared magical but later on Sayle would discover the hidden mechanics of the play which coincided with his disillusion with the communist ‘utopia’ of the Warsaw bloc.
For his fourth album, Cheshire secluded himself for four weeks and approached songwriting as a day job, spending each day writing religiously. This disciplined approach yielded the crop of songs that make up Black Light Theatre.
The album was produced by Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey/Bat for Lashes) and was recorded using Cheshire’s regular band of David Pearson (guitar), Andrea Di Biase (double bass) and Jon Scott (drums). There’s nothing like a working band to bring a songwriter’s work to life, and it’s apparent from the first note that Cheshire’s band have spent many hours together honing their sound. The playing is tight and confident, with each player contributing their creativity to the rich tapestry of sounds that is Black Light Theatre. It’s the guitar work, however, that’s really outstanding on this album. Rich in texture and sound, the six-string wizardry brings to mind 70s new wave pioneers Television, one of Cheshire’s main influences. Cheshire is quite capable both of Tom Verlaine-esque soaring solo’s and almost ambient flourishes and parts that fit perfectly into the neo-psychedelic patchwork of sounds that is the signature of this album. The songs veer between quiet introspective moments featuring the vocals before erupting into exuberant ensemble playing, giving this music a nice dynamic flow, not unlike some of prog rock’s better moments.
Opener Visitations pulls you right away into Black Light Theatre’s musical world with a shimmering, gently pulsating soundscape of guitar, bells and keyboard washes.
After a cool little guitar intro, Idler bursts out of the speakers with gloriously clamorous guitars before settling into its by now familiar downbeat groove. And then once again exploding into sonic bliss. This song is an impressive display of the band’s mastery of dynamics and texture.
Black Light Theatre opens with spiky guitar lines and shimmering chords, bringing to mind a creepy haunted lounge that would fit nicely in a David Lynch movie.
Grandfather Clock harks back to the no-wave sound of the 80s and early 90s, while The Incidentals is maybe the most reminiscent of Television with soaring guitar lines, spacey minor chords, tribal drumming and bowed upright bass.
Black Light Theatre is a guitar-driven, neo-psychedelic smorgasbord of sound and texture showcasing Jack Cheshire’s introspective songwriting, his solid Television-inspired guitar work and his band’s mastery of dynamics and tight musicianship.