Woefully under-appreciated San Francisco area avant-rock band Jack ‘O The Clock has released a new album. But unlike their previous four, which are takes on the band’s own melancholic version of progressive rock / rock in opposition, Outsider Songs is a 30 minute EP of covers. Given the band’s background, the targeted artists may seem surprising – Morrissey, Duran Duran, R.E.M., Paul Simon, and Bjork are featured. However, group leader Damon Waitkus stated that these songs were ones that he or another band member had loved for years and never tired of hearing.
Having said that, Outsider Songs does not feature straight covers. Instead, Jack ‘O The Clock applies a unique interpretation to each. Not being familiar with any of the originals, I cannot say how much the covers deviate, but apparently some are essentially re-composed and rearranged. Thematically, Jack ‘O The Clock is known for lyrics and an overall feel that exudes subtle darkness that borders on the disturbing. The songs here are similar in that regard – perhaps chosen subconsciously. Each is focused on a person trying to find their place in a world for which they are not quite suited.
Is this the best place to start with Jack ‘O The Clock? 2013’s All My Friends probably gets the nod in that regard. But if you are a fan of any of these songs, or of the group, do take a listen to Outsider Songs. There aren’t many current American bands that combine compositional sophistication and emotional poignancy quite the way Waitkus and his co-conspirators manage to pull off on a regular basis.