Jack Name To Shed 'Light' At The Empty Bottle
By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 31, 2014 8:20PM
Just hearing the words "concept album" might elicit more than just few eye rolls and an "oh boy another artist is ready to bore us with his self-gratifying, ham-fisted drivel" attitude, but Jack Name's debut solo effort Light Show really goes beyond that. Rather it's a bold look into a pharmacological solution to keep children behaving "properly" as society passes them through the educational system.
Dedicated to the "victims of the educational drug trade," Light Show pulls the listener through a coherent story arc where "shadows" are shunned by "wolly bullies" who are determined to stamp out the creativity and individually the shadows dare to display. The bullies attempt to fill the shadows with light to numb their outrageous thinking.
In a conversation with Chicagoist, Name said he never personally has been on prescription drugs like Ritalin or Adderall, but has found himself surrounded by those who have.
"I think the cultural ramification can really hurt everybody," he said. "The brain is a mysterious thing and it's stupid to think we understand it and how it should work."
Still, Light Show, has plenty of room for interpretation. Name doesn't beat the listener into submission with is crusade. The symbols of the "shadows" and "wolly bullies" certainly can be applied to any kind of scenario where the balance of individuality vs. conformity is threatened.
"There's a lot of negative space (in the album)," Name said. "I really don't mind if someone listens to it and doesn't get all the stuff. If they see a totally different story in their head, that's fine with me."
Musically, Light Show ranges in instrumentation from fuzzed out guitars to eerie keyboards to droning saxophones. The songs themselves evolve from upbeat and uplifting to downright dirges as the story unfolds. Even Name's vocals are splayed widely. At times he uses falsetto, and other times in deep and rich. Sometimes it's both. On some tracks where the bullies spew their invective, his voice is distorted and nearly unintelligible. The sound is thick, and the mixing is cool with hard right and hard left elements that titillate the headphones.
There are elements of Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, ELO and Richard O'Brien of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" fame. In fact there's quite a bit of Rocky Horror in the record. "Do the Shadow" easily could fit into the score, and the melodies on the verses of "Pure Horror" come a little too close for comfort to "Science Fiction-Double Feature."
Name recorded the album himself in "any apartment I was living in at the time." He also mixed the album.
"It was an arduous ordeal," he said. "It took a long time. There was a lot of obsessing."
Name will be performing at the Empty Bottle Tuesday night in support of Light Show. He said he is not touring with a full band, but with just one other performer.
"It's a totally different presentation than the record," he said. "There's going to be a lot of songs from the record and some from the (unreleased) sequel, too.
"You can expect loud, electronic rock'n'roll," Name said about the show.
Light Show was released earlier this month on God? Records, Ty Segall's imprint on Drag City Records. Name has performed under a variety of monikers including Muzz, Fictional Boys and John Webster Johns, though he insists they are not alter egos.
"I just get bored with a name and sometimes have to switch them out," he explained. "Maybe I have identity issues."
Jack Name will be performing with Dent May and Thin Hymns on Feb. 4 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., 9 p.m., $8 in advance and $10 at the door,21+