Review by Clinton Walker in Rolling Stone (Australian edition), March 1989.
ROARING JACK: The Cat Among the Pigeons (Mighty Boy) LP **
Roaring Jack came in on the coat-tails of the Pogues and Weddings, Parties, Anything, if not creatively then certainly commercially. That is to say, it’s interesting to wonder whether they would have got this far without those precursors, because Roaring Jack possess little of their respective charms.
The Cat Among the Pigeons, this Sydney sextet’s debut album, even excepting the conceit of the title, is the sort of record that presents the critic with a problem: It’s worthy, it’s probably even musically alright, so why can’t I swallow it?
Perhaps it’s because Roaring Jack remind me of what people used to call ‘new wave bands’. You know, the type that came out after punk in the late Seventies, aging musicians, even young ones, who missed the mark altogether, who’d be wearing skinny leather ties and op-art shirts.
Roaring Jack are obviously old Irish folksters – whether authentic or not – who’ve gone electric, got souped-up. Everything they do vibrates like a BLF jackhammer. The problem is there’s no resonance.
The songs, mainly from the pen of Alistair Hulett, in broaching the standard subjects of whiskey, working men and a man’s woman, seldom rise above the workmanlike (indeed) and often plummet into the depths of the downright trite.
The lack of real imagination doesn’t end there, as it extends all the way into the songs’ treatment as well. In their hyped-up state, Roaring Jack go at everything like a bull at a gate. If there’s any subtlety to the songs it’s drummed out of existence, and there’s certainly no room for reflection.
It’s all well and good that Roaring Jack should wish to extend their parameters, but in taking folk to rock they’ve only ended up with the worst in each. They should slow down and take a look back, and take stock. There’s surely more to the past they’ve got than the future as it stands as the moment.
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