I like to think I can do a pretty good Jack Ladder impression. Not his actually mannerisms and persona – just his killer croon. Well, I try. When ‘Come On Back This Way’ dropped in 2014 it quickly became a personal favourite not just because of my fondness for singing along, but also because it was an amazing example of torrid and emotionally-fraught romance set to a compelling musical score. Playmates as a whole is an album of neo-synth and noir-tinged soundscapes and tales of broken intimacy – easily listenable when in one of those night-time moods when can’t tell if you are feeling amatory or lecherous.
‘Susan’ is a new track from Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders – a heady offering of ripped and spaced-out disco (with a funky guitar element thrown in for good measure). Thematically it touches on two of Jack’s favourite L-words – love and loss – as well as the notion that love continues after death (or perhaps the power of grief-induced delusions). In essence, a grieving widow (Susan) is haunted by the ghost of her deceased lover (Richard), who comes at night to convince her to come dancing for all eternity on the glittering dance floor of the afterlife. It’s a beautiful and haunting prospect, two characteristics that Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders hold with frequently.
‘Susan’ starts off with a smooth discotheque groove – bright pulses of purple and blue – before Mr. Ladder captures the ear within his first lyrical utterances. Jack’s signature melancholy is pitch perfect in the verses, particularly when relaying Susan’s observations toward the lack of lustre of the autumn sun post Richard’s death, and also when Susan’s spectral significant other tells her to join him in the beyond by taking a hearty (over)dose of Vicodin and methadone. When the chorus hits the darkness rolls back and the empty space is filled with lustrous colour and one can’t help but see the light. Although Jack Ladder never seeks to reach anything like a conventional high note, his ability to increase the urgency in his emotional delivery is what makes the main hook work so damn well. There’s beautiful imagery littered throughout – simple but masterfully conveyed. ‘Susan’ is a easy rival to ‘Come On Back This Way’ in it’s ability to convey longing and heartbreak-induced hardship.
Songs like this make me realise I sound nothing like Jack Ladder. In my opinion nothing else sounds like Jack Ladder, which is part of the reason I dig what he does so much. I’ll keep practicing, though.