The Jacklights’ double A-side ‘Womanchild’/‘Underachiever’ – released in November 2022 – was a solid slice of power pop. The pair of tunes retained a garage rock/90s alternative roughness, but were far more melodic than anything that had appeared on the band’s self-titled EP from two years previously.

It took the band almost a year to follow up on their brilliant double pronged single, so they clearly weren’t in any real rush to build any momentum, but from the moment ‘Haunted’ crashes through the speakers with a buzzing guitar riff and almost punky intent, it feels like The Jacklights have never been away. Armed with a speed driven riff that sounds like something from the Fort Apache studios circa 1994 crossed with a touch of riot grrrl fierceness, musically speaking, it’s almost perfect for the style, even though the band have previously shown an ability for more melodic fare. There’s a welcome melody here, too, of course, and Nilagia McCoy shares a superb vocal throughout, sounding like Kay Hanley’s slightly angrier cousin. With a couple of musical twists to highlight a strong bass riff from Mike Allen and a thrashy drum coda from Mike Gaylord, the track plays like the ultimate Jacklights hit, showing off each of their musical traits in a tightly wrapped four minute package.

The fun doesn’t stop there, obviously, and ‘Past Tense’ stokes up the fuzz even further, delivering a riff that sounds like something derived from middle period Husker Du crossed with a half forgotten 90s bands like Verbena. The riffs here are really dirty, but nicely played, and as before, the band’s fusion of quite heavy distortion and clean vocals really works in their favour. In this instance, McCoy spends a lot of time wrapping her voice around much longer notes, adding a further contrast to the one of the band’s noisiest backdrops, but it all results in a very confident sound, before the equally dirty ‘Anniversary’ opts for even more 90s derived riffs. Throughout these four minutes, McCoy wields a world of long, grubby notes drawing directly from a world of bands that crept through in Nirvana’s wake, and although an over-reliance on a mid tempo makes this drag a little in places, a clean riff is called upon to occasionally break up the weightier sounds, which gives everything a slight lift. More of a slow burner, this is still home to a commendable vocal and some brilliantly nostalgic guitar sounds, but it’s definitely the EP’s weak link.

Wrapping up everything with a heavy riff and indie-pop combo, the title cut often sounds like Letters To Cleo on overdrive, but for fans, that results in “top tier” Jacklights fare. The bass is so distorted it gives the impression that your speakers have blown, but that’s absolutely necessary for Allen to even be audible within this brilliant wall of noise whilst, in a more typical style, McCoy brings waves of melody via a clean, power pop derived vocal hook. The contrast is classic Jacklights; the way they’ve taken a Phil Spector-ish melody and pushed it through a Pixies meets stoner/fuzz filter is inspired, and the way the sugary melodies collide with a swamp of riffs sounds great. By the time they pull a wordless refrain out of the bag for a catchy finish, this has all the makings of being a fan favourite.

For those already familiar with The Jacklights, this EP will be an instant hit. It won’t bring those fans anything particularly different to the table, but there’s little point in making drastic changes to a musical formula that really works. Within these four tracks, you’ll find an abundance of great riffs and big alternative hooks, some designed to jolt those memory triggers; others ready to prove that classic 90s sounds never really go out of style. Whichever way you approach this, though, it’s a strong EP. Even with ‘Anniversary’ not being quite as instant, it all plays well as a short and sharp showcase of an underground band with some massive musical chops.

November 2023