JATK – JATK EP

JATK is a DIY project fronted by singer songwriter Matt Jatkola that celebrates the louder end of the power pop spectrum. The three piece band love distortion and fuzz almost as much as they love a sun-filled retro hook and the result is, perhaps, one of the noisiest power pop discs since The Great Affairs released ‘The Striped Album’ back in 2011.

Beneath the layers of guitar and fuzz are four absolutely cracking songs. Tunes that evoke the kind of excitement you first felt when you dropped the metaphorical needle on a Beat Angels or Ryan Roxie album for the first time. The kind of unbridled joy you feel from playing The Wildhearts’ ‘Vanilla Radio’ at full volume exists within at least a couple of these songs…and that feel-good quality is obvious from first play. Subsequent spins only confirm what you suspected within the first minute or so of hearing this band for the first time. Yes… Power pop fans should be aware that this is potentially that good.

‘How I Feel Inside’ is a hard-edged stomper that introduces JATK in a brilliant no-frills manner. A heavy glam influence on the verse suggests a love of T. Rex, even if the end results don’t always sound too obviously Bolan-esque. A simple chorus introduces some big, echoing power pop vocals, leading to a hybrid sound that flaunts its technicolour retro love with a few rockier edges. With a huge amount of Cheap Trick’s glorious fuzziness covering everything and WITH an odd Gregg Alexander-esque sleaziness always lurking beneath the surface, it creates a brilliant first impression. …And if you somehow miss the Gregg Alexander tones at first, a middle section where the hard riff gives way to a weird, floaty, Prince-like dream with falsetto vocals should more than set you straight. This is a fantastic tune. Just fantastic.

With that, ‘Angry Anchor’ throws a few more 90s influences into the mix via a world of even fuzzier guitars. This lends a vaguely Husker Du-ish haze over everything, but Matt’s love of pop more than shines through, especially on the chorus where the wall of guitars almost sound like they’re augmented by bells. After hitting the listener with a shamelessly simple hook a second time, the music descends into a weird Floyd/Syd Barrett freak out (never a million miles away from ‘Astronomy Domine’) before a multi-tracked guitar part shifts everything back to a world of pure melody. With a teeny bit of influence from Thin Lizzy and a bucket load of charm on loan Cheap Trick, a twin lead guitar becomes an important part of the JATK sound. The one line refrain that reappears the bulk of the coda is perhaps a little too repetitive – a good idea quickly becomes a little tiring, but given that everything else within these three minutes absolutely slays, it’s a minor drawback. Slowing down a little, ‘Come Inside Your Room’ fuses many classic power pop influences, resulting in something that sounds like it was created in a hazy 1970s summer and then run through a truckload of 1990s distortion. The mix of electric and (semi-)acoustic guitars creates a huge blanket of sound throughout which, although seemingly simple, it’s more than enough to give a huge chorus a great send off. With various guitar effects and disjointed notes used for a solo, as well as the multi-layered, joyous sound, it’s almost hard not to think of power pop cult hero Bleu and the noisier parts of his ‘Four’ album from 2010. That, of course, is a good thing.

Introducing a different side to the JATK sound, ‘Nubella Satan’ cranks the distortion and speed. Although it still very much clings onto a glam rock root, it injects a punky spirit that really invites the listener to crank the volume. Mixing the stomping rhythms of old Chapman & Chinn hits with the grubby cool of CBGB’s heyday, this trio really go all out for riffs and thrills. Dropping into a quiet lull where even the vocals seem unsure of whether the track’s actually finished, there’s a major derailment, but it’s all very deliberate since the main riff comes back with a vengeance. Loaded with even more distorted vocals than before, a full compliment of harmonic guitars and even a bunch of handclaps fighting their way through the wall of sound, JATK whip up a glam-punk party worthy of Butch Walker in his Marvelous 3 days or Roxie 77 on a brilliant bender.

If you’ve followed the careers of Ryan Roxie, Gustav Nilsson, The Genuine Fakes and – most obviously – Cheap Trick and their thousand and one DIY impersonators, there isn’t anything new for you here, but these four songs have plenty of guts. That’s more than enough to make a really familiar sound seem really exciting. This EP really can’t be recommended highly enough.

November 2019