One of the great casualties of the digital distribution boom is the weakening of the once revered album cover. It’s a massive loss. Especially when you come across such a striking, memorable image as the cover for Jack On Fire’s latest record,I Am Animal– the follow-up to the Melbourne quintet’s debut LP,Stranger Cain. Created by artist Alyce Brandner, it is an excellent evocation of the Australian Gothic, oozing mystery and menace.

Thankfully, it’s a premise that’s confirmed in the sprawling desert psych of album opener and title track ‘I Am Animal’. Amid swirling tambourines and pounding drums, Jack On Fire build steadily on a droning, hypnotic riff. Ben Blakeney’s vocals swim in a tidal wash of reverb. It’s loose, unhinged, spooky, and resoundingly stoned. Unfortunately, though, the quality isn’t quite sustained throughout what is a relatively short album. Perhaps it’s a matter of the songs feeling constricted, lacking in depth, when measured against the spaciousness of the opener.

I Am Animal still offers a number of genuinely disquieting moments, like ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Old Love’. Still, it’s not quite enough to elevate the record beyond the potential the band clearly possesses.

3/5.

I Am Animalis out now through Independent / Bandcamp.

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