How The Light Gets In
Jesse Sheehan’s latest EP builds on his previous efforts – clearly a young talent, the worry now of course is that he’s in the machine, part of the machine and he has the industry telling him what to do, positioning him, styling him. That happened fast. So, while you’ll still be able to hear him stand up on a stage with just a guitar and voice and wow a crowd you will have to put up with an EP that bursts from the blocks, Mumford-like in its urgency. A bit of a Tim Buckley vocal swirl and twirl here and an opshop-refashioned fiesta vibe there and though that’s not entirely ghastly it’s ill-fitting as opshop borrowings tend to be. It’s not quite real. It’s not quite honest. And yet there’s a yearning in the voice – you can tell this young man wants to be a heart-on-sleeve type. And maybe/probably he was and probably/maybe he thinks he still is…
Also, this might seem to some to be a bit like nit-picking but if you are going to name your EP after a Leonard Cohen lyric you probably should not include a song that not only features the lyric, “Sometimes I get so lonely I could cry/Sometimes I get so horny I could fuck the sky”, but also goes on to repeat it. A shame too because the song that is crushed by this lyric (I Need To Get My Fire Back) shows some potential. And certainly some swagger. A little too Jake Bugg-like (another one they got too, swiftly). But there’s something in it still. Again though, you just know it’s been spit-polished for the Mumford crowd. And maybe if you’re young and quick with your Twitter account that’s a good line after all…it can be both earnest and ironic perhaps. But I just reckon it’s the worst kind of howler.
When Sheehan calms down (Old Man) and remembers that not every song needs to feel like a slogan – or that it has a slogan in it, dangling from it – the EP starts to take shape.
And then when it does wind back up (Little Machine) I don’t even mind so much that the vocal is aping Jack White’s strained faux-blues bleat because Sheehan has – when at his best – a charm and charisma, a passion and enthusiasm that is palpable. And he can play. And he can sing. And there’s some writing going on too.
So Jesse if you’re listening, or if someone reading knows Jesse and is able to pass this on, I don’t want to patronise and suggest this is because you’re young nor insult myself by saying it’s because I’m too old but please – and this really is a plea, a pleading gesture even – step away from the machine, or tell those overlords, if you think they will listen, to take a step back for now.
You’ve seen and/or heard The Dark Side of The Willy Moon surely? Because they’ll have you like that next, a set of dancing shoes in exchange for the rest of your self-awareness. And that’s not fair. You have a shot – and it’s understandable you want to take that and will take a compliment when it’s given, hence letting the Sony lads and lasses preen and primp and – ultimately – pimp you. But they’re either killing your songs, or letting you kill your songs. And though it starts off slowly, it’ll happen really quickly. Once they’ve got you. And I believe that they have. And that you can hear that already.
And I’m sure – for now at least – that you deserve a bit bitter than that. And by extension that means we do too.