The phrase “intelligent pop” is one of those that instinctively makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up- in fear, rather than excitement, you understand. It usually conjures images of over indulged, public school boys writing lyrics that have seen far too many references back to a well thumbed thesaurus and a sense of overbearing pomposity that, frankly, does my head in.
It’s in this context then that we come to Oxford’s Jonquil, one of the many alter egos of the prolific Hugo Manuel, who you might better know as Chad Valley. Jonquil have that unerring knack of being able to push a number of the buttons that have indie rock critics falling over themselves in search of the most apposite superlative to ascribe to what is, fundamentally, some quite charming and uplfiting pop music.
“Point Of Go” is the collective’s latest record and it is a cheery, sunny little number, shorn of the band’s previously widdly widdly excesses that is delivered with an open heart and mind that I find myself warming to. It is unquestionably intelligent pop- laced with expansive melodies, charming refrains but it’s all very nicely done and it doesn’t have me reaching for the axe to smash the stereo in, as many of this band’s ilk can have me doing.
Most of “Point Of Go” has an uplfifting, aspirational ambience. There are occasions when you want to shout “reign your necks in, lads” where a lyric is particularly arch or a musical interlude just a little bit too knowing but, by and large, these indulgences are forgivable. Just. “Point of Go” Parts 1 and 2 represent the centrepiece of a record that is perfect for that leisurely drive through the English countryside, Swells is a pop song that you want to root for almost instantly and there is a low melancholy running through “Real Cold” that is unexpected but quite welcome as a contrast point to the happy go luckiness that underscores the rest of the album.
“Point Of Go” has plenty to recommend it if you like this sort of thing. Influences abound- you can insert the name of your favourite Indie guitar band here is you like- but there is a strong American influence here too: Fleet Foxes and Midlake are obvious influences. All of these things are, to these ears, very good things indeed but the influences are echoes rather than Xerox copies and I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more critical acclaim for “Point Of Go” as they remain something of an underground favourite rather than an overground mainstay. There’s no accounting for taste I suppose.
“Point Of Go” isn’t going to boil the ocean and is no epic but as the soundtrack to a Sunday morning, I can think of a lot worse ways to soundtrack your life. A modest and unassuming charm.