"Citizen of Nowhere" by Jack BlackmanReview
I must say that I'm intrigued and pleased not only by what appears to be a resurgence of fresh, original punk orientated music in Coventry & Warwickshire but also just how far it's spreading.
On one hand, the emergence of some of the great overtly punk groups we've been covering & sharing such as Septic and the Tanks, Stegosaurus Sex Party, Gutter Puppy or Concrete Fun House are uplifting & exciting. On the other, artists not merely from other genres but genres quite some distance from punk, adopting punk influences is most unexpected. Only the other day we reported on Rebecca Mileham's new EP ‘Rising Tide' with the Blondie/Undertones inspired track "Know You Less" and now Jack Blackman releases tomorrow his "Citizen of Nowhere" which he specifically describes as a "punk-influenced protest song". And both these folk/roots artists are palpably angry and in Jack's case, alienated too.
Although sporting a similar title to fellow "Hot Music Live Presents" featured artist Ian Todd's "Citizens of Nowhere" (which can be heard on his 2019 album ‘Bohemian Hymns' or indeed 'Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three') this is not a cover, but it does show people are expressing similar types of concern. "Great minds…" etc.
As the statement of intention suggests, this is not a song for allusive lyrics nor carefully honed ambiguities. The message is paramount so Jack keeps it direct. As the best polemical writers have found out, any literary devices, even irony, can send the wrong messages to some listeners, so the name of this particular game is effective communication.
I love the way writers can demonstrate breadth & variety in their work: it certainly impresses me but also keeps their music fresh for listeners. Too rigid a template turns them into artists of fewer dimensions and minimal diversity. You know as I do how Jack can switch from his acclaimed blues playing to delicate folk, to rock & to songs on the cusp of being bonkers (I'm thinking of "I Wish It Was Summer (At Christmas Time)" which I just have just played again and I hope you will too this festive season). There is humour in that last category, reflection and seriousness in others & here we have something more akin to outrage.
As I prefer to do, let's hear from the artist himself first: "I wrote 'Citizen of Nowhere' as a way to voice my own frustrations and connect with others who are concerned about the state of our nation. Music has always been a powerful tool for sparking dialogue and social change, and I hope this song can contribute to that in some way."
So it's songwriting as catharsis to some extent (which is commendable and certainly guarantees that emotional truth in a song which I'm always drawn to) as well as proselytising: should any potential listeners not already occupy a similar standpoint.
However, given the subject matter and the "punk" badge Jack pinned to his own lapel, "Citizen of Nowhere" is not the Billy Bragg soundalike you or I might expect. It's certainly a comrade in arms, with a fairly direct & abrasive guitar arrangement, but I'm sure he didn't want to sound like another artist and so the song grows from the solo protest singer style into a fully blown band performance (featuring Euan Blackman on guitars & keyboards, James Maguire on bass and backing vocals and Chris Quirk on drums) which adds weight and heft to the track: we even get a signature guitar solo: albeit appropriately short, to the point & keening. To further put in a little sonic distance from where others have gone before, the vocal sound is quite processed (which gives me an opportunity to mention that Dom James mixed the track & joined Jack and Euan in producing it and that Sam Proctor at Lismore Mastering mastered it).
This is the sort of thing that I myself appreciate: from the sound of the song to its targets ("..themes such as inequality, corruption and greed, resonating with individuals who share similar concerns about the direction in which the country is headed. "Citizen of Nowhere" serves as a bold expression of frustration and a call for change, encapsulating the sentiment of many who feel disconnected or disillusioned with the status quo" as Jack himself puts it). I imagine many of you will feel similarly but if not, that this might act as the call to arms which Jack intends and that in turn might lead to constructive action. Would we expect anything less from an artist so involved in projects like Street Arts aimed at helping others?
Jack launches "Citizen of Nowhere" at BRUBL in Leamington tomorrow evening.
Check out too the excellent video (by Steve Graham, of Realise Films) who has worked with artists including Paul McCartney, Manic Street Preachers, Killing Joke, INXS) at: