The knowledge of syllable tessellation has made Jehst arguably the UK’s most natural rhymer who simply doesn’t waste words. Even when you can hear the mic stand lowering, as has been his want in recent times, Jehst still makes a seemingly monosyllabic, red-eyed persona verbose, impeccably bringing life to the mundane and justifying every everyday reference.
Despite conveying impressions of isolation, depression, desperation, indecision (the very British crossroads examined on ‘Household Name’, the subject revealing he “thought about suicide/couldn’t be arsed”) clouded reflection (‘City Streets’, a hazy parallel to Jehst standard bearer ‘City of Industry’) and just trying to be, 'Billy Green Is Dead' is an album which oddly retains a sense of humid comfort. Not fighting the pressure despite vocal frustrations, Billy Green is free to lose himself in a cosmic cocoon that, aside from the occasional sideswipe, isn’t necessarily the spectre of death breathing heavily down the album’s neck either.
Scrambling to grab a foothold until he actually gets lost in the beat (engulfed in the Paul White-produced ‘So Far To Go’), the treading of self-pitying water, depression and acceptance (‘Eulogy’ sounds more chipper with the light approaching) far outweighs unconcealed denial, anger that barely raises its hand and half-hearted bargaining.
Doomed relationships come naturally on ‘Set in Stone’ (something Jehst can’t resist given the unnervingly good disharmony of ‘ESP’), and ‘Good Robot’ is either a rat race statistic or the one-time Space Cowboy persona made real. It’s with some inevitability that after the church of ‘Jonestown’ has prepared its goodbyes, the album concludes with ‘Billy Green Is Alive!’, Jehst appearing to grab a towel handed to him by the Grim Reaper from Bobby Ewing’s en suite.
Such is the well deployed ambiguity of ‘Billy Green Is Dead’, you’re never quite sure if Jehst is method acting, or the subject’s biographer/sympathiser/Billy Brimstone's brother from another. There’s only one suspect in this whodunit – modern life has run the protagonist down, details of his last days closely knit so the whys and wherefores require concerted, don’t-go-anywhere dissection. Epic.
Words: Matt Oliver
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