Some albums possess an incredibly strong sense of time and place, and this – Jack Cooper’s solo debut – is one of them, based as it is upon the Blackpool haunts and environs of his youth. Musically, opener ‘North Of Anywhere’ bears strong hallmarks of Cooper’s songwriting style when with his band Ultimate Painting; stylistically it’s something like a Richard Hawley song covered by Pavement, with a lazy tempo and a wandering solo. And Cooper’s talent really does bear comparison with heavyweights such as Hawley.
This record is awash with that timeless brand of classic songwriting that runs through the ages, although ‘Sandgrown’ isn’t overly soaked in sepia tones, with songs like ‘On A Pier In The Wind’ feeling evocative yet immediate. A vaguely stoned quality creeps in at times, as on the immersive, repetitive riff on ‘A Net’, while ‘Memphis, Lancashire’ has a shimmering vocal melody and a verse which sounds like ‘Hotel California’ moving through syrup. ‘Sandgrown’ is a record that feels effortless, crafted, and at times sublime.
Telling people about where your’re from can be an arduous task. When I tell people I’m from Nanuet, New York, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Tell someone I’m from Nanuet
Ask them if they’ve ever heard of Rockland County, home to the Palisades Mall, and the place where the Cuban national baseball team recently menaced an umpire crew off the field during a game.
Clarify that it’s across the Hudson River from its much more well-known, stuck-up cousin, Westchester County.
Scream, “Well it’s 30 miles north of New York City, ever hear of that you miscreant!?” before leaving in a huff.
I hate how insignificant Nanuet is, but at the same time, it’s insignificance is what makes it the best. And while I’d never, ever want to spend any time there beyond hanging out with my parents and our family’s cat, hell yeah, you better believe I have some great memories of it that I’ll cherish forever.
Jack Cooper, one half of the duo Ultimate Painting, is undoubtedly also engaged in a relationship to his own hometown that is a bit “complicated” (and probably much, much more so than the one I have with mine.) On Sandgrown, his debut solo album, Cooper ruminates on the formative years spent in his seaside hometown of Blackpool, England. Blackpool used to be a summer tourist destination, attracting hippies, donkey owners, and the like to its seafront on a yearly basis. Over time though, the tourist trade dwindled, and Cooper had to watch as Blackpool slowly descended into a place rife with drugs, seedy bars, and people struggling to get by. By age 20, Cooper had left Blackpool behind completely.
One needn’t however, be intimately familiar with Blackpool, nor Cooper’s history with it, to enjoy Sandgrown. The album deals more universally with the reconsidering of where it is that we all literally have come from. All of us — especially those professional wrestlers billed as being from “Parts Unknown” — have a hometown with which we can associate complex, weird, nostalgic feelings. And while it may not be able to help us resolve all of them, maybe Sandgrown is just the kind of album to help us at least start to unpack some of them.
Whether you’re ready to deal with your feelings or not, though, Sandgrown is out August 25 via Trouble In Mind Records. Listen to first single “North of Anywhere” down below, and if you feel like you’re finally starting to understand yourself in relation to your hometown, Pre Order The album here