American Poet Part 1 is not a title which suggests a level of modesty from an artist…or, as Ronseal would have it, it simply does exactly what it says on the tin. This seems fair enough, as Michael Jones is indeed an American poet as well as a successful entrepreneur and musician. It follows in the wake of This is the Night, which we enjoyed very much earlier this summer, so it’s nice to see how this fits in with the rest of his musical world.
The lingering tone of the EP is of grandness, maybe even grandiosity. It’s incredibly precise both lyrically and production-wise, with every element being choreographed to microscopic levels, certainly reflecting Jones’ poetic background as well as feeding from the history of artists who have performed in a similar manner, from the slickness of some Tom Petty albums to the studiousness of John Martyn. It’s not ideal as background music but works far more effectively as an immersive experience, indeed an accompanying book to read along with as you don your headphones feels appropriate.
This is the Night still feels like the most effective track on the EP – a nice balance of humour, self-knowing and a very natural build in terms of the song’s dynamic, emerging from a quasi-Lizard King beckoning to sing-along apocalypse. We are Soldiers feels rather more like the music has been draped upon the skeleton of the lyrics, the wonderfully throaty organ buried under the lyrics which battle with a guitar to assert dominance, leaving you feeling a little disorientated, having wanted to revel in the very effective musicianship but been bullied into listening to the lyrics.
What is this Life For is a pleasant strum-along through life’s big questions – metaphysics around the campfire, if you please. Despite the subject matter, it feels like the least portentous of the four tracks, especially given the remaining track, In the Deep which is funereal in pace and would perhaps be more suited to a different vocalist. It is inarguably deep but to an extent which is borderline impenetrable, with so much florid gesture that it becomes saccharine. Poetry is always such a personal thing and the strength of Michael Jones’ American Poet EP is that it bears up well to repeated listens, giving you the opportunity to experience what may initially pass you by.