I’ve said it before so I’ll say it again, you can watch an artist time and time again plying their acoustic trade on the live stage but it is only when you hear the full blown album that you final get the inside scoop on what the big picture was all this time. Most modern wandering troubadours, and Jake Martin is certainly that, are all about compromise, budget, logistics and space in the car, not to mention on surfed sofas, mean that most artist can only give you the essence of what they are all about. Don’t get me wrong, the essence is fine…more than fine, it is their soul being bared, their personality writ large, their music in its skeletal form, if it doesn’t work at this level then why bother? But with the restrictions of the road behind them and a small reserve of cash at their disposal, when you finally get to hear the sound that the artist always had in their head, it finally all makes sense.
In a way Broken By Design comes as little surprise, the punk beat, the thunderous bass lines, the frenzied, folk violin, the incendiary deliveries, even when those things weren’t there in the live show your mind added it anyway, acoustically fleshing out the sound that the songs naturally conjured, leaving the stage haunted by the ghosts of studios to come. But in a way it is also a revelation, you finally get to hear the full dynamic, the soaring highs, the minimalist lows, the sweeping drama, the wide-screen, wide-scream of the music and in a way it feels as if you are finally coming home.
And home is a theme that runs through the album. The home of Jake’s formative days, the home-sanctuaries, both physical and spiritual, found when growing up, the sofa shaped temporary homes necessitated by a life on the road and the search for a meaningful home as an older, perhaps wiser and certainly more world-weary traveller. But it is about so many other things too – reflection and regret, longing and loss, nostalgia and hope, dreams and contentment.
It isn’t all thumping punk-folk, although there is plenty of that going on, Today I Am a Circle, is a beguiling and melancholic slice of understated music and Dorothy is a slow-burning, heart on sleeve, analogous take on a a past relationship. But it is the foot-on-the-monitor, fist-in-the-air, shout-along, rabble-rousers which is probably what most of you came her for and Jake doesn’t disappoint. Posters in Picture Frames is a staccato riffed road anthem, Christ Piece is a gloriously swirling, groovesome look at the past and the title track which plays us out is a punk-shanty for the modern age. This is music to break both hearts and furniture to, to raise your glasses to and also the rafters, to exorcise ghosts, build bonds and heal old wounds to.
Broken By Design is everything that you hoped it would be, at turns energetic, euphoric, sad, wistful, celebratory, united, lonesome, honest, ebullient, profound, profane and defiant to the end. Just like the man himself!