Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

You find your pleasures unexpectedly. I listened to this single because I was working with Kirk Lake in a bookshop at the time and thought the title was kind of cheeky, all things considered. Wasn’t expecting much, not down to Kirk who I was somewhat in awe of, but because I associated Jack with the saggy, overwrought and precious maunderings I’d heard on their Pioneer Soundtracks album. More fool me: the music they make on “Five Finger Discount” is intimate and beautiful. By chance or design, the track’s been recorded low and foggy, so I always hunch up and lean in to listen to it, which seems to suit.

The song, riding in on a ruefully jaunty piano line, finds the singer wandering through a sharply observed city – probably London – late at night, in the world but not quite with it: his mind’s on other things. “Five Finger Discount” is a love song, like all the best singles – a quiet, unpretentious, bittersweet love song with wonderful late-night music and a disarmingly gentle tune. “When you’re dead I’ll be free” is the punchline, and the “free” is echoed and loops until it and the music collapse into each other, a chilly ending to a charming single.