REVIEW: Mark Jackson’s Criminal Waste of Talent – What’s the Situation EP

Mark Jackson was a prominent player on South Yorkshire’s live music scene in the late 80s. With his band Mark Jackson’s Exceedingly Good Cakes he played a blend of new wave and comic performance poetry. Never shying away from controversy or offence, he also made a name for himself comparing at comedy clubs.

In the last year he resurfaced from his deep musical slumber with a new musical outfit – Mark Jackson’s Criminal Waste of Talent, which has seen him join up with local guitarist Steve Dalton to tour the county playing support to many quality indie and punk bands. As well as throwing in the odd old song (Pocket Ful of Change), he’s been ploughing away writing new songs too. Two things are apparent; the support for him is still blatantly there. But also still is the bewilderment. He’s a bit Marmite – many audiences lap it up and others just don’t get it. But that’s good. I reckon that is the way it should be. Personally… I’m a big fan and I’m pleased to see that MJCWOT have finally put their new sounds to plastic. If you follow him on facebook, you’ll also be aware of his online daily diary which is just like his songs, full of funny, middle-aged melancholic meanderings and anecdotes.

What’s the Situation EP is much of the same. The EP opens with no riffs, no one-two-three-fours, no ambiance; just straight in there with his big bloody gob. Dumped by Text he yells – all northern drawl and having a midlife crisis aloft a barrage of brilliant jangly guitars born and died somewhere in the summer of ’88. It’s a number that those familiar with his live shows will know well. It’s a story about a fifty year old’s fumblings with fanny and facebook, both unsuccessfully.

Often the singalong closer of many live sets, Real Men Have a Shed replicates that with backing vocals from Steve Dalton followed by a chorus of folk chanting along, and then strangely enough, a plethora of sound effects such as a saws and drills.

With no doubt though, the best track here is the brilliant recording of There’s Always a Queue at Greggs. It a much more sober, low key affair but definitely the most poignant number here. Mark is known for his dead pan comedy but …Greggs is bleak, honest and right on key – for both our times and Barnsley. Where the first two tracks have the production values of early indie music and is wholly reminiscent of Cooper Clarke, Half Man Half Biscuit or even Ian Dury; unlike the lives sets in which the songs has much more raw and punk feel, here …Greggs stands out as being something totally different. It’s sparse and atmospheric instrumentation is much like the towns it speaks of and reminds me of the guitar based tracks from Welshman Patrick Jones’ album of poetry and music The Guerrilla Tapestry, such as This Terrible Honesty. It’s shoegaze poetry from the austerity age and it is wonderful. This recording reaffirms why it is not just my favourite Mark Jackson’s Criminal Waste of Talent track but that behind the grim humour there is an altogether more serious artist wanting to break out.

The EP closes with a second, longer version of Dumped By Text. This is closer to the version you’ll hear him play live, complete with monologue mid-song. It’s the better version and I’m not sure why the decision was made to include both as I’d have loved to have heard Long Day (another favourite of mine) recorded as a forth track but whatever. The EP is brilliant, long over-due and one of best local records released this year; up there with Cavorts, Trudger and the Black Lamps/Imoko Set split. The multiple layers of guitars are brilliantly textured and even the drum machine shines. It’s a great progression for an already brilliant act and I’m definitely looking forward to more new songs and gigs.

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