Jonathan Jeremiah

Horsepower For The Streets

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Horsepower For The Streets is Jonathan Jeremiah’s fifth album, his second for PIAS, a label which feels like a good home for a soulful singer linked to a cadre of artists more readily associated with mainland Europe than his own island. So far at least. Much of the new album was written in Saint-Pierre-De-Côle, the countryside beyond Bordeaux, during breaks in Jeremiah’s first tour of France. Long walks and open log fires. You can take the boy out of Brent … and the continent welcomes him with open arms (see also Tindersticks, Scott Matthew, revered across the Channel, where the artistic tradition is less distracted by Londinium hyperbole). The album was recorded in Bethlehemkerk, a renovated monumental church in Amsterdam Noord, with Amsterdam Sinfonietta, a 20-piece string orchestra. There’s clearly a European influence at work here, a bond which has endured.

Since he appeared on the scene in 2011 with A Solitary Man, Jeremiah has been likened to such iconic performers as Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, Terry Callier. The clarity of his delivery draws the listener into the landscape he paints in such detail, whilst at the same time leaving much to the imagination.

The opener, “Horsepower For The Streets”, might conjure up images of boy racers, revved up emotions (my guess, when he asks me what I think). In actual fact, it’s a quote from an old acquaintance in Berlin, a rallying cry, a positive vibe. Which arrives just in time after a couple of years which, let’s be honest, have been pretty tough going. This is an album of its time, of hardships endured, rhodium thieves sighted across the road, sirens wailing on their way to the hospital. The second act represents the darker days of the work, bookended by a vibrantly hopeful opening and consolatory resolution.

Jeremiah draws us in, allowing us to see what he sees. On “You Make Me Feel This Way” we look out onto the street with him, there’s a neighbour walking the dog, scenes we recognize and become part of. The view from the window is, by definition, that of an outsider, and yet the act of observation feels empathetic. All human life is here. If he started out as a solitary man all those years ago, he now seems far more grounded, ... even in isolation, he feels connected.

There’s a simple explanation to the solitary man origins in Jeremiah’s case, he was a security guard at Wembley Arena, composing songs in his head on the night watch. His father was an electrician there and sorted him out with the job. Imagine Jonathan, tall as a door, guarding the entrance to the snooker halls. His father, who arrived from India and met his mother, from Ireland, at the Lancaster Hotel where they were working, also influenced Jonathan’s musical development. Not so much the Cat Stevens or Elvis records played in the family home, but more through watching films together, Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, The Wild Geese, even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was the music that stayed with Jonathan, the lush string arrangements of Lalo Schifrin, echoed here by Amsterdam Sinfonietta who elevate the songs of Horsepower For The Streets to a sublime degree.

Jonathan Jeremiah is a solo artist in the truest sense, translating his vision into music, taking care of every last detail (“down to the catering,” he jokes, referencing George Clooney’s take on film production). If it sometimes feels like it’s all too much, he remembers the words of his friend Glenn: “I’ve got the number of a guy who digs ditches”. Flick through his videos and you’ll see him wandering alone (last man standing on the Berlin underground platform, or crossing fields with the Wembley arch in the distance).


1. Horsepower For The Streets
2. You Make Me Feel This Way
3. Cut A Black Diamond
4. Small Mercies
5. The Rope
6. Restless Heart
7. Youngblood
8. Ten-storey Falling
9. Early Warning Sign
10. Lucky
11. Sirens In The Silence

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