Melbourne singer/songwriter Jethro Pickett returns with ‘Gene’, the first single off his highly anticipated 2nd album, France.
It has been five long years since his last album, and ‘Gene’ is the first taste of new music in some time. Taste is probably quite an apt word for the new single, as the song lasts a relatively short 1:39. Despite its length, the song still feels complete, and is a tantalising introduction to the forthcoming album.
Propelled along by a sort of delirious shuffle, ‘Gene’ opens with a smooth groove from a 70s drum machine, before the rest of the band kicks in, with layered staccato guitar melodies contrasting big chords from a Wurlitzer piano. The rhythm section subtly propels the song along, all providing a lush backing to Jethro’s storytelling.
And quite the story it is, the opening line of “Chocolate Factory in the wilderness/featherless bird on a stand,” gives an indication that things may be a little different. ‘Gene’ tells the story of a real-life character who lived in the wilds of Tasmania, a real life version of Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version, hence the songs name). They shared the same face, the same twisted genius, except one actually existed in the real world, or as close to the real world as Tasmania gets.
‘Gene’ is tender and comforting, yet with an ominous feeling, perhaps an underlying sense of malice. This is something which the accompanying film clip perfectly represents, as it is full of footage of a remote wilderness, fog, footfalls, and a man creeping about with a shotgun (perhaps a big reason for the underlying sense of malice). Interspersed is Jethro in front of camera, highly stylised, with a painted face bearing a resemblance to Adam and The Ants.
The single, and indeed the whole album, shows Pickett’s fondness for music from an earlier time, the ‘good old days’ when everything was analogue. Sonically, there is an abundance of warm, rich tones, combining vintage sounds with modern production.
Scheduled for release at the end of the month, France was written, and partly recorded, whilst Pickett was living in Dublin, and touring around the UK and continental Europe. The majority of the record, however, was completed after moving back to Melbourne. The traversing of hemispheres gives the album a worldly sound, with lyrics full of tales of adventure, and personal accounts of both beautiful and traumatic life events.
The new music has some pretty serious names behind it. Co-produced by legendary guitarist, producer, and multiple ARIA winner, Shane O’Mara (Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers), O’Mara’s impeccable taste has helped mould an ambitious and unique sounding record. The album is being released via Behind the Beat Records, a boutique Melbourne label owned and run by Phill Calvert of Birthday Party fame.
‘Gene’ is out now via Behind The Beat Records, with the new album France to be released on March 23rd. A special intimate two night launch event is being held at Long Play in Melbourne, those in the area can get tickets here. Details of a full Australian tour will be announced soon via the Jethro Pickett website, as well as details of an upcoming UK and European tour in the throughout June and July.