Wednesday, August 03, 2011

JONNIE COMMON "Master of None"

With an album title implying a deficit of skills and artwork depicting a headless dog you’d suspect that Jonnie Common has some confidence issues. (He also confesses in ‘Hand-Hand’ he “can’t skate-board to save my life”). Stepping out from behind his previous musical incarnation as Down The Tiny Steps, he unveils this week the first album under his own (real) name; and ‘Master Of None’ shows a songwriter lacking neither craft nor assurance.

In addition to Down The Tiny Steps, Jonnie Common has developed quite a jack-of-all-trades musical CV – currently one third of Inspector Tapehead, remixer, producer and arranger-cum-curator of the Deskjob collaborative project (it’s an impressively extensive discography on his website). Common does has a twitchy tendency to re-edit and re-shape: pre-orders of this album came with a ‘Scrapbook’ version, tagged as an ‘alt-mix’ but actually a substantial overhaul of the tracks into single 37 minute piece. These multifarious roles and the “eternal rehash” approach could lead to a slop of indulgent studio boffin tinkering. Instead the result is a winning distillation of the off-kilter rhythms and inventiveness of The Beta Band with the homespun innocent charm of King Creosote’s “Kenny and Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides”. Although Common loops, layers and adds in fielding recordings of ansaphone messages and radio announcements, it never over-runs or obscures the gorgeous melodies and his deep but soothing Scots burr. ‘Summer Is For Going Places’ is a perfect example –a glitch-fest of cut-up and backwards voices at times but all used sparingly to underpin and even strengthen the song.

There’s a plethora of these little moments of creative knob-twiddling - treated banjo ('Lungs Are Important'), hissy drum machine rhythms ('Heir To The Throne'), shiny glockenspiel chimes ('Infinitea') or electronic squelches and trills ('Photosynth') – that only add to the summery affability of "Master Of None". It all fits together beautifully even when Common is pushing himself towards “Mellow Gold” Beck-style beats and rhymes on ‘Bed Bugs’. What could easily have been a clunky miss-kick is instead one of the album’s sure-footed highlights.

Alongside the Awesome Wells album released in May, ‘Master Of None’ is another accessible and joyfully quixotic record from the Red Deer Club stable (or should that be deer park?). Restless studio experimentation added to great song-writing and condensed into an uncommon alt-folk treat.

Hand - Hand - Jonnie Common

Jonnie Common Master Of None [BUY]

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