Pre Pleasure (Liberation)
MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE THE LAST SONG, not-accidentally-I’m-sure called End Of A Friendship, has strong echoes of Trains And Boats And Planes, rich with the same musical and lyrical undertones of bruised, mature acceptance, as well as a similar slow train coming twang.
Maybe it is the way the album opens with a song, Lydia Wears A Cross, which takes us from neat rows of schoolchildren and idealised heroes, to misplaced faith that may be about a lot more than a mere god or dead princess: “I'd be a believer/If it was all just song and dance/I'd be a believer/If I thought we had a chance.”
Or maybe I was just in a wistful, adulthood is a series of tricky engagements and I don’t think I’ve yet got a handle on it, mood.
In any case, Pre Pleasure strikes me as a record for the striving rather than the resolved, a catalogue of lessons in the process of being understood – by Julia Jacklin at the first reading, but most of us on closer examination as we realise, yeah, that’s how I’ve felt too, and I’m not sure why.
I mean, the answer is right there in the title isn’t it? That period of uncertainty, of mistakes made and surprisingly positive results arriving without warning or explanation, and what sense is made comes only in retrospect. Jacklin’s characters – or herself, or us – exist in that place of pre-pleasure, the in between times, the moment where you can tell someone “I’m making plans for my future and I plan on you being in it” but it still feels like question marks frame the line “Ooh, from now on, in you I put all my trust/Now that I know there’s nobody coming to save us”.
And there’s something of that to in the tempos Jacklin prefers: that leaning back on the pace sensation that sits somewhere between a shuffle forward and a swaying side to side, that in Ignore Tenderness feels like the trailing of a coat behind you, in the beefier Be Careful With Yourself it tugs at you as much as the song, not letting either get away, and in Less Of A Stranger is almost in a country ballad stasis, much like the mother-daughter relationship that can’t seem to be resolved because the narrator says “[I] don’t want her to change” even as she looks for answers to situation where “when I look into the mirror/I see my father/When I close my eyes, I see you”.
The lyrical/rhythmical combination is best seen in Love, Try Not To Let Go which has a California-easing guitar and holding-your-hand voice looking down, only for them to intermittently break out into a vault forward (drums pushing up hard against the now-aggrieved guitar, her voice pitching higher) that falls back on itself. Meanwhile, Jacklin is declaring that “love is all that I want now” and simultaneously saying “give me time, time to figure something is out”; admitting that with the echoes of her hometown “the things I never said consumes the space between me and everyone I left”, but finding herself confessing that “I find it hard to keep myself from floating away”.
If the languorous, summer night-alluring Moviegoer feels a slowed down Walk On The Wild Side – Herbie Flowers’ bass modestly but warmly alluded to – it retains a cinematic overview that narrows the perspective from establishing shot (“There’s a vintage car/Outside of a bar/Someone thin is smoking”), to medium shot (“Where the grass is greener/Kitchen benchtop’s cleaner/There’s no rubbish here/No physical fear”) to close-up (“Moving through the city/Somebody runs into me/They apologise/I apologise/We are both so sorry/They say, “Come on, try it on me/If you can say it to a stranger/You can call your sister later”).
When we near the end of Pre Pleasure then, resolution isn’t necessarily closer though maybe understanding is a little clearer. As the strings shift the energy in End Of A Friendship, tilting slightly into momentum – for change? – Jacklin sings of how her love is “spinning ‘round the room” but it’s still nebulous, “caught up in a cloud”, and she knows that “someday you’ll have to say them out loud”.
The future holds joy possibly, but also, to borrow from Hal David, the possibility that inertia or silence or fear will mean that “Trains and boats and planes are passing by/They mean a trip to Paris or Rome/For someone else but not for me”.
APPLE MUSIC: Listen to Julia Jacklin – Pre Pleasure
PURCHASE VINYL: HERE
Review by Bernard Zuel
Republished with permission. Read more reviews and articles from BZ - https://www.bernardzuel.net/