Jack Cheshire’s third album Long Mind Hotel is a gem of psychedelic English folk, recently launched to an enraptured audience at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London. From the very first track, the listener is thrown into an uncertain, disorientating yet mesmerising world created by Cheshire’s lyrics and incredibly gifted band.
Movement is a corner-stone of the lyrical content to the album, with repetitive or cyclical imagery a metaphor for the isolated, inevitable monotony of daily life, ‘Night will come/ Those lonely tyres will roll around/ Again.’ This is artfully counter-poised by the strands of strange optimism that occasionally burst through, ‘Stoic beneath the eiderdown/ Smiling at that sinking feeling.’
The album is also littered with references to drinking and drug-taking which could easily appear contrived, but clearly Cheshire is talking from experience and moreover seems to have brought something back in the form of his song-writing. Postcard from Sedation is a haunting song about a period in hospital, with the hypnotic rhythm section a perfect complement to Cheshire’s measured chorus, ‘All in good time/ Follow the heartbeats/ Into the wards and far away.’ It’s almost as if he has taken the ubiquitous folk song refrain ‘Over the hills and far away’ and twisted it into a more unnerving image more apt for our times.
The real strength of the album is the poetry of the lyrics combined with very well thought out arrangements executed effortlessly by the band. Highlights include Jon Scott’s overall restrained control on tracks such as Revolving Doors, the simplicity and elegance of his drumming creating an artificial sense of security which juxtaposes the ominous lyrical imagery. David James Pearson’s tasteful and unpredictable electric guitar solos enhance the psychedelic elements of the album and Andrea Di Biase’s double-bass exquisitely moves the songs steadily along.
Perhaps the only weakness is that there is a sense there is another gear or two left in Cheshire’s voice, and although the languid Lou Reed-esque style of delivery suits the lyrical content, more vocal textures would add a fine touch. However, in comparison to the plethora of mediocre singer-songwriters attempting to ride the wave of the acoustic music scene’s resurgence, Jack Cheshire’s Long Mind Hotel is a necessary and timely anti-dote. Packed full of musically mastery and lyrical skill, this album is a fine accomplishment.