The romanticism of the North. Grit and toughness. Hardened faces, softened souls. It's about personality, mentality and wits. Graham Fellows AKA John Shuttleworth suggested it's nice up North, Jack Cooper is the most recent artist to all but confirm it.
The Ultimate Painting co-founder hits the most northerly tones possible with this contemporary take on the blues. Sandgrown is a record of the North. A picture of mundane, repetitive, life. Forget George Formby and his stick of Blackpool rock, this is a real, current voice of the North. And it's execution appeals to the romanticism of it all, too. Cooper grasps sentiment perfectly. Yeah, it might be shit living in constant grey and rain, but it'll be rite, you know?
"I can't think of a more northern record really. It's about a town in the north of England and I think the subject matter is pretty specific to growing up in a Northern town. That's not to say the themes aren't universal, but I wouldn't really know. The older I get and the further I travel, the more English and the more Northern I feel"
The North comes across in Sandgrown both in instrumental delivery and lyricism. Titles such as North Of Anywhere and Stranded Fleetwood Blues speak for themselves. The lyrics portray the perfect picture of repetitive living, 9-5 mentalities, lounging about not really up to much and a constant battering of the seafront. Nothing portrays this more so than Gynn Square: //I stood there waiting on the pavement, Monday morning, it was early, I was yawning, it was boring, as the sea spray, washed the weekend from the concrete// a more perfect description of the North there is not.
But the delivery is also key. We're drenched in a dreamy reverb which makes the whole experience seem to last so much longer than it really does. The constant pedal of the organ adds a "Super Hans sense of dread", and for the first time I can really relate in my musical life; in Sandgrown the North of England seems to have found its own spin-off Blues music...that works!!
"I don't really think of genres as belonging anywhere in particular and if you go back far enough, it all essentially comes from the same place. Country music can be traced back to Irish and Scottish folk music"
For the time being it seems that Cooper has found his niche with this North England portrayal. Unlike other Indie groups from the region, and indeed his own successful partnership with Ultimate Painting band mate James Hoare, Sandgrown just seems to be so much more honest and unique proposition, delivered with a "Steppenwolf" angst and consciousness.
Look, don't listen to this album at a party for heaven's sake, leave it for the rainy Monday morning car journey or the longing stare out of the window at work. That's where it makes most sense. And if not, then don't worry, Ultimate Painting will be back soon with a 4th record anyway. But this, well this is something special, trust me.