Music Reviews
(I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson

Stevie Jackson (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson

(Self-released) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Stevie Jackson, Belle and Sebastian ever-present, has set out in search of a solo sound with his retro-styled sensibilities and a bevy of songwriting talent. (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson is the result: an LP with a long gestation period but a short attention span that revels in 1960s pop music and is as fun as it is jangling.

Perhaps Belle and Sebastian fans will be most inclined to fall in love with Stevie Jackson's solo explorations, but that would be an awfully simplistic approach. There are certainly some points at which you can easily think things like "Oh, this is that man from Belle and Sebastian," but those points are surprisingly uncommon. Stevie Jackson, for what it's worth, has an established musical voice here that's his own and not a simple derivative of the work he's been doing for now more than 15 years.

When a vital member of a beloved band decides to make a solo musical mark — striking out, even just for a minute, on his or her own — it's tempting to compare everything to the tree the nut fell from. In this case, the nut's not fallen far, but that's a hell of a way to evaluate an artist. Stevie Jackson, after all, wrote but a handful or two of Belle and Sebastian songs on his own — Stuart Murdoch, after all, is the principal songwriter for the group, and while some responsibilities are shared, this solo album represents a wholly different vision.

Stevie Jackson is clearly a talented songwriter, but some of the ideas here lack in a sense of finality. Many of the ideas, as nice as they are, simply don't seem to have been finished: More refining, I think, would have done Jackson some good here, though not in simply subtle ways. Sometimes, the songs seem to drag — and with only one track significantly over four minutes, dragging shouldn't be much of a concern at all. Those concerns aside, though, (I Can't Get No) Stevie Jackson has enough good ideas to power through any dull parts.

Still, Stevie Jackson has put himself out there in a big way; he's taken risks that the relative safeness of Belle and Sebastian protected him from, and in that sense, it's not entirely surprising that not everything came off perfectly. Given the length of time the album's been recorded over — the first tracks were recorded in 2006 — it's no surprise that everything comes off a bit fragmented and vaguely incomplete.

When it comes down to it, there's something very fun about everything here — as if the title wasn't a hint enough! The album makes it quite clear that Stevie Jackson is at his solo best when he's playful and having a bit of fun lyrically and musically, whether that's writing about film directors or romantic trepidation, or cranking out some solid pop tunes.