Caramel Jack is a British pop band with an alt-country accent, singing about urban living rather than rural pursuits. In their intelligent pop sense and bleak wit, there are reminders of Microdisney, The Divine Comedy, Tindersticks and later Madness. Variety is the defining feature of 1900: country music offset by sour flashes of trumpet and trombone in ‘The Girl With The Marketing Eyes’; fine string arrangements; folksong (the traditional ‘Away Haul Away’), music hall, crooning balladry and Latin jazz. It’s city-focused but not very sympathetic: “that night I watched two men/ kicking the shit out of a boy in the gutter” runs a line in ‘Hangover Big As The Ritz’. However, at their best, the lyrics are as evocative as a short story: “here are the Lindstrom sisters moving to a new flat in Dulwich/ surrounded on three sides by cemeteries and close to the shops/ the dead of London sleep” (‘Buttercups’).
But the variety that attracts your attention initially soon overwhelms you. It feels like too much self-conscious performance and too little soul. It feels awkward. While I failed to warm to it completely, the record has its moments; ‘Hell’s Driver’ is glam art-rock, like the White Stripes meeting the Sweet, while album closer ‘The City Falls’ is an experimental urban instrumental that would brighten up any Resonance FM playlist.