[14 February 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
If there’s an anonymity to Jack Name’s moniker—his real name is John Webster Adams—we get no clear identity on Light Show, his latest album and first under this new title. The album reflects his lo-fi pedigree, as he’s played with the likes of White Fence and Ty Segall, but if it’s hard to tell who Name is, or what he’s about, one thing is for sure: his musical world is a strange one. The best parts here, like the glistening, fuzzy opener “My Own Electric Ladyland” or the dreamy space-rock of “Pure Terror” or the swampy textures of “Trans America”, all twist garage-pop expectations in different ways. The songs present us with warped but intimate pop sensibilities, and Name’s voice moves from the airy and youthful to the knowingly dark.
Name is surely a man of extremes on Light Show, and the musical shifts are jarring and curious, though sometimes on tracks such as the wobbling “Sound Was the Castle”, the songs pull too fitfully on their seams, busting out in unruly and ineffective ways. The hardest thing to reconcile here, though, is Name’s shift into a high, nasal voice in too many moments. Songs such as “Do the Shadow” and “Out of Sight” are potential pop gems undone by his cartoonish voice. In these moments, Light Show is undone by an eccentricity that is too forced, too strained. And that’s too bad, because the more believable eccentricities here can be pretty striking.