The rise of Jesse Jo Stark has felt effortless. A scion of the hyper-connected Stark family, her surge to prominence has garnered an equal pushback online, with some slapping cynical comments against her achievements. Debut album ‘DOOMED’ is the point where it all gets real, however – no amount of connections can sustain your attention across 11 tracks, criss-crossing dark-pop, punk, and even country. That takes skill and talent, something that can’t be faked.
Superficially bright, ‘DOOMED’ is marked by darkness, a dichotomy that pivots between glossy pop flavours and lyrics that are endlessly, helplessly open. “Haven’t cried in a minute,” she sings on ‘sugar high’, the swirling string arrangement worthy of a vintage Hollywood theme. ‘modern love’ seethes in its antagonistic potency, while ‘lipstick’ is driven forwards by that razor-edge guitar line.
‘pussycat’ dallies with neon-tinted synths, with ‘patterns’ matching lyrical venom – “I’m in a bad mood… can’t you tell?” – to clipped electro pop, a kid of Gen Z salute to Kraftwerk in the verse, or perhaps Madonna’s glorious 80s run.
Amid the noise and colour, Jesse Jo Stark also shows a willingness to let the tempo drop. ‘love is a dream’ thrives on its empty landscapes, while ‘tornado’ nabs in self-conscious fashion from the Morricone playbook with its twanging guitars and finger-snaps.
It’s not a record without flaw, however. In true debut album style there’s plenty of punch, but at times its immediacy and directness sacrifices depth; brash and noisy, the (no pun intended) sugar high is hard to sustain over a full record, the quickfire run of thrills becoming a little dizzying.
That said, ‘DOOMED’ more than earns the right to be judged on its own merits and failings. A bold offering first time out, it finds Jesse Jo Stark grappling with broader challenges – a glamorous firing of the starting pistol, it points to fresh achievements on the horizon.
Words: Robin Murray