Review: JCRS – Arclight
August Day (June 3rd, 2022)
Reviewer: David Pearce
The debut album from a new group is always an intriguing prospect, doubly so when, as is the case with JCRS, this duet have connections with three of the best-known groups of the 80s. John Crawford founded 80s legends Berlin, whose love theme from Top Gun, ‘Take My Breath Away‘ is one of the standout tracks of the entire decade. Robin Simon has similarly impressive credentials as lead guitarist for both Ultravox and Visage. They met by chance in LA and clicked immediately, and their debut album ‘Arclight‘ is the result.
‘Firedogs‘ is an emphatic start to the album. It’s a track with a great mix of synth style and a heavy beat that gives you a clear idea that Crawford and Simon have hit it off straight away. They have blended the new wave sensibility with a heavier instrumentation that is anthemic and instantly appealing. ‘There’s Only You‘ has a central role for the synth that makes it sound like later Ultravox and a really good central vocal which lifts it out of the everyday. It’s one of those songs you know is new, but you could swear you’ve heard it before.
‘Like Crimson‘ has echoes of Human League in the singing and synth, but once again it benefits from the heavier Berlin inspired touch. It is yet another fascinating track in an album that will take a few lessons to appreciate fully because there’s so much going on. ‘Slide‘ moves into early Depeche Mode territory and makes the most of the counterpoint between the soaring vocals and the understated tune carried by the synth. ‘I Could Stand On My Own‘ could easily be a Berlin tune but the vocals, once again, prove that there is a lot more going on here. Neither Crawford nor Simon are relying on retreads of old material, instead they are using their old styles as a springboard from which to make some really different new music. It’s a really interesting end to the first half of the album.
‘Vectors Part 1‘ is a Vangelis style synth tune that uses atmosphere to draw the listener in then proceeds to move into similar territory to Alpha from Vangelis’ Albedo 0.39. ‘Vectors Part 2‘ moves into very different territory with a New Romantic style tune which gives Simon’s synth background a very good airing. It’s probably my favourite track on the album. ‘Shifting Sands‘ moves into more rock inflected territory and gives a clear idea of how the two styles mesh. It’s perhaps the song on the album that blends their two backgrounds in the most seamless way.
Penultimate track ‘Supposing‘ is a Space Oddity style song which pays homage to the origins of electronic music whilst giving Crawford the chance to play a really effective guitar riff. For the final song ‘The Universe Suddenly Shrinks With One Thought‘, we are back in Vangelis territory with a hypnotic tune and a thought provoking vibe.
This is a really interesting album that mashes together two styles to great effect for the most part. I hope this isn’t a one off because I would be intrigued to see what will happen next now that these two musicians understand each other better.