She disses other girls and probably fucked your boyfriend. So why do we love KATE JACKSON from the Long Blondes?

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girl in beret
Fan art of Kate Jackson
By Sarah Thompson, age 14.


gloriously amoral; sexually voracious

The Long Blondes tell the truth. ‘Kate Jackson strikes me as the kind of girl you don’t want to be friends with.’ Damn right. The Kate Jackson of these songs is bold, predatory: gloriously amoral, sexually voracious. Take ‘Once and Never Again’. A casual listener would consider this a supportive soliloquey from an older woman to a younger one:

’19, You’re only 19 for god’s sake, oh you don’t need a boyfriend...’

The young woman’s been self-harming because her boyfriend’s gone out with his mates instead of coming round as promised; the narrator’s telling her to set herself free, not cut herself, not take more time off school because of this loser, etc. But this is no gung-ho girlpower anthem: it’s a tale of predatory lesbian desire.

There’s a lascivious slippage half-way through the song. ‘Oh, I could show you the ropes’, Kate implores. A note of rapaciousness sets in as Kate insists she’ll only have to do it once (the ‘once and never again’ of the song’s title); the song closes with a twist as the repeated refrain ‘I know how it feels to be your age’ morphs into ‘How I’d love to feel a girl your age’, and the listener’s left with the discomfiting sense that the narrator is using the girl’s emotional vulnerability as a means of manipulating her way into the girl’s pants. DARK!


 
 

homewrecking ho

When she’s not being bisexual, Kate Jackson is busy being The Other Woman, with at least three songs exploring the morally dubious terrain of the potential homewrecking ho, from slightly different viewpoints each time. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ sees the narrator waiting passively for the love object’s relationship to break up; ‘You Could Have Both’ is more predatory, pointing out to the boy that monogamy is not the only way forward for him at this point; while ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ seems to be a retelling of Billy Liar from Julie Christie’s point of view, with the narrator trying to incite a riot in the life of an inspired yet cowardly boy who’s dangerously close to settling for a world of stultifying mediocrity.


cold-eyed stoicism

Good art - great pop - should hold a mirror up to life. It should peep into the corners where we hide things away; lift the duvet of our ‘official feelings’ to reveal the twisted sheets of reality beneath. A strong artist will reveal their incapacities, foibles, cruelties and weaknesses in order that the viewer can experience that oh-yes-me-too rush of honest identification.

This is perfectly exemplified by ‘You Could Have Both’, The Long Blondes’ finest moment, in which Kate basically offers herself up for an affair. In silky, dispassionate tones, she makes her position perfectly clear. ‘You’ve been going with her now for seventeen weeks, but that doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to me.’ When the chorus kicks in her voice rises to a pitch of cold, frustrated anger:

“Just when you’re ready to take on the world, some other girl had to get there first… but you know where I am and you know that you could have both.”

This isn’t the headlong first-flush-you’re-the-only-one-for-me purity of new love. This is grown-up, messy. The talk is of being too old to kid herself about happy endings, of ‘considering the alternatives’, of ‘contingency plans’.

There’s a cold-eyed stoicism at the heart of this song; this is less the tale of a smooth-tongued seductress and more the sound of a girl who knows her lowly position (‘I know I’ll never have you / completely alone’) putting her chin up and settling for whatever she can get.


 

fingerprints on his heart

It’s refreshing to hear the voice of the transgressor so clearly, but even more pleasing than this is the use of language in the song, seen in the use of the repeated phrase ‘some other girl’. After 17 weeks Kate surely knows the girlfriend’s name, but she’s deliberately not saying it - depersonalising the other, disassociating in order to commit crimes, to incite infidelity.

And you don’t have to have been trapped in a love triangle to identify with this linguistic tic - this is what people do with any love rival. We use language and tone of voice to invoke dismissal, disdain, and for self-protection. Try saying the name of someone you suspect your partner fancies. It’s hard to keep your voice neutral. There’s bound to be an inflection. Our voices carve quotation marks around the names of our rivals, as though we can’t quite bear to actually allow those names a space in our minds.

Jane
, you say. Claire. Abigail. Steve. Or you replace the name altogether, as seen here. You may well know that the girl before you, the one who left fingerprints all over his heart, the one who’s fucking up your life even though she doesn’t know you exist, is called ‘Jane’, but ‘stupid Armenian ex-girlfriend’ just seems to trip off the tongue so much more comfortably.

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