Into Album Reviews: Jim Shepherd (Jasmine Minks) – The Circle
Artist: Jim Shepherd
Album: The Circle
Albums as good as Jim Shepherd’s solo debut The Circle rightly deserve to have every praise heaped upon them for the stand-alone artefacts that they are. For any songwriter the gold standard for demonstrating your skills is writing a classic pop-song and this is an album of 12 perfectly formed nuggets. It’s a wonderful collection of diverse, melodic and scratchy Pop gems that should be rightly taken on its own merit.
Lead single Coming Alive has a very clever video from Ruth Tidmarsh, comprising some further royalty from the Independent music world. The song itself is a fierce attack on capitalism, full of strong hooks and superb acid-fuzz guitar.
And that video is released TODAY…
As is the nature of the entertainment business however, everything needs contextualised, categorised and marketed to a defined target audience. While this should not be necessary, in this case it can only benefit as the fine sounds within betray a secret: it is comprised of ‘Indie’ royalty, which should be of no surprise once you hear it.
Shepherd is the singer and songwriter for Aberdeen’s jangle-pop heroes The Jasmine Minks, who formed in 1983. They were at the dawn of a movement which helped cement the foundations of Creation Records, later home to Oasis and huge success. For me anyway, The Jasmine Minks released far better records than their Mancunian friends ever did which is often the way of music. Despite never reaching the same commercial heights, they were by far Creation’s most celebrated signing during the labels first year, generating much needed press interest for them which without would certainly have jeopardised the label’s chances of existing long enough to sign fellow Scots, The Jesus and Mary Chain. The quality of their work would ensure a long relationship with Creation, releasing well received albums and being the only Creation band to sign to Alan McGee’s successor label, PopTones, in the early 2000s. Do yourself a favour and listen to them, your life will become better.
This record contains contributions from their illustrious Creation label-mates; Frank Sweeney and Arash Torabi from The June Brides, Dave Morgan from The Loft and Weather Prophets and Jamsine Minks co-conspirator, Tommy Reid.
The entire album actually is bursting with scathing political commentary, witty lyrics and anger focussed in the correct direction. Like the best music the package is all wrapped in lovely melodies, sensuous harmonies and gorgeous acoustic guitars interspersed with the ferocious and biting lead. The perfect sugar-coated bullet.
This album can’t be recommended enough to fans of classic 60s crafted-pop such as The Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield and The Beatles as well as for fans of the golden era of ‘proper’ independent music. But it should be clear that this album is not an exercise into the past, like some sort of Indie Gerry and the Pacemakers revival, it’s a cleverly constructed modern album that utilises classic songwriting to allow a much needed commentary on modern politics. It also cleverly utilises fresh sounding synth warbles, and contributions from a much younger generation, such as Aberdeen’s Vapour Trails.
The Circle is out on CS and LP on Spinout Nuggets, 25 March.
Launch gig: The Lexington, London, Sunday 17 April, 7.30pm