Axels and Sockets: The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project (Volume III) - Various Artists (Glitterhouse Records)
Cypress Grove, one-time collaborator with Jeffrey Lee Pierce (check out their Rambling Jeffrey Lee LP - "Real Steel Blues") is unwilling to let the magic die. He feels Jeffrey’s echoes all around him.
So do his friends and admirers. One can’t help wondering whether, if Debbie Harry had predeceased him, Jeffrey might have been tempted to do a similar project for Her.
The wonder is that Jeffrey never got this level of attention when he was alive; based on scraps and half-finished structures, these songs sound stronger, tuffer, and more involving than pretty much anything I tend to ignore ‘in the charts’. I don’t think the charts have ever seemed more irrelevant to me than they do now; I mean, do people really listen to … and pay money to see them?
However. This is the underground, where genius rubs shoulders with the trainwrecked, sometimes in the same band. The JLPSP’s third double LP (most CDs these days have the length of a double LP, but not the panache or organisation) is once again a different kettle of fish. This one kicks the door in and scrambles inside, reaching for you … and you can almost feel the change as each side closes and you have to get up to turn the vinyl over… This is a warm, powerful record made by people who love the music made by a man whose prime imperative lances into our cores…
I’ll put this real simple: the songs here are worth shelling out the shrapnel for. Even the songs you might call filler would, on most everyone else’s LPs, be regarded as highlights.
Nobody’s City features Thurston Moore, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave, who all come out punching in some sort of groovy, sliding avalanche. Hell, it gives Bowie and Alice circa 1972 a run for their money. There’s a lot of r’n’r history here; Iggy is the original anti-hippy wild man, both Thurston and Nick loved the Stooges as young men, and Thurston puts out handsomely. Significantly, Jeffrey and Kid Congo also play on this wall of guitars track, as does Cypress - in fact, whenever there’s a need for a musician and not enough time, Cypress fills in (he’s on several tracks, and does quite a lot of production). Jim Sclavunos and Brian Henry Hooper make up a dream band.
Kisses for my President (Mick Harvey, JP Shilo and… Debbie Harry) is an intense, stupid intelligent blowtorch pause for thought. Godlike genius. Mick’s work on these compilations has been stellar, and JP Shilo is… well, if you’re not a fan you’re not listening to modern, relevant music is all I can say. How something rooted in 1978 via the Shirelles can sound so damn right here in your skull I can’t tell you. Mick’s drumming full-on, and JP’s Farfisa is… a fuckingFfarfisa, and it’s perfect.
Just Like a Mexican Love (Black Moth) finds us reeling, but here we go down the rollercoaster again, straight outta Thelma and Louise. I’ll be seeking out Black Moth - I don’t recognise them at all but this is a masterly swagger, cleverly arranged too. Harriet Bevan’s vocal is standout.
Weird Kid’s Blues. Julie Christensen has a wonderful voice, warm, haunting, familiar. The real kicker is trying to separate her from the music - very hard indeed. This is the kind of dark blue blues we wish for at two am when we can’t sleep and get up and go for a walk. It’s very, very Jeffrey - and Julie’s vocal recalls Texacala Jones, Jeffrey’s close friend and singer with Tex and the Horseheads.
Ain’t My Problem Baby (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club). Now this is damn cool. If you must have a comparison, think the Mescaleros but… ah just shuddup and dance.
Constant Limbo, Constant Rain (Crippled Black Phoenix; Cypress Grove with Mark Lanagan, Suzie Stapleton and Bertrand Cantat all on vocals). This one will simply take you away. Pack you in the back of an old Holden, take you somewhere quiet where you see the stars and meteors … make a wish, folks. Wish you get to see Crippled Black Phoenix. Wish you get to see Cypress perform live. This vocal is stunning, the guitars soaring… meteors, man, meteors…
Into the Fire (Nick Cave and Debbie Harry, featuring Warren Ellis, Cypress, Jim Sclavunos and …). Like a lost Cave track from 1992 or something, this is another of Jeffrey’s songs which should be cherry-picked, easily the basis for a film score, if not the screenplay itself…
Thunderhead (Kris Needs Presents … Honey). From sublime pop straight to the garage, we’re in early Gun Club territory here. I notice some bozos at Amazon think Fire of Love was ‘cowpunk’ - clearly they don’t have ears. There was always country and blues and gospel lurking in Jeffrey’s songs, just blurred somewhat for all sorts of reasons. I think it took him a long time to realise what he was doing was damn good, and the audience will come to those who wait. Jeffrey couldn’t wait, I guess. But we’re here now, and I notice some early Gun Club stuff is finally being rereleased - see CD Universe or your friendly cd emporium.
Desire by Blue River (Mark Lanagan and Bertrand Cantat). Mark and Bertrand’s vocal really carry this song, but as with everything, you need unobtrusive, skillful, powerful backing - Nick Cave playing piano, Warren, Hugo, Cypress, Sclavunos among others. Wish these folks lived a bit closer, they’d be slow-burning to see … you need to hear this and, like Into the Fire, its a score and screenplay…
Kitty Inna Moonlight (Mick Harvey, JP Shilo with Xanthe Waite). JP’s rather wonderful duet with Xanthe is moving to say the least, romantic with a kinda ugly edge; Mick and JP’s backing has that glorious, intimate familiarity which nudges right up against the vocals… sweet, knowing and kinda stinky; clever structure, I’ll say no more.
Secret Fires (Ruby Throat). Katiejane Garside’s sharp velour voice slides around us like a python. Chris Whittingham’s guitar hovers, watchful like a moon through the window. Twin Peaks without the synth and shaggy dog aspect - enough to give Stephen King and Ramsay Campbell nightmares.
Kisses for my President (Andrea Schroeder). Schroeder’s take on this is revelatory, another dreamy blues you get tangled up in, sweaty bedclothes and dark night and all. Wraps around you and won’t let go.
Body and Soul (James Johnston). Johnston is part of the meaty heart of Gallon Drunk, and - of course - it shows. Again, almost a homage to the original Gun Club, you can imagine this one powering along in a tiny, sticky nightclub; his guitar’s a damn nasty thing, like a leech in your ear.
Goodbye Johnny (Primal Scream). Oh God, this is sick. Reminds me of Suicide, ugly, demonic, hypnotic, seductive, diamonds, fur coat champagne… fabulous of course. Andrew Innes’ guitar is perfectly sliced, and his synth and mellotron make a rhythm section to be found in only Marc Almond’s black heart.
Break ‘em Down (Hugo Race). Expat-Australian-returned-home, Hugo Race, shows what a world-class talent he really is; his interpretation of the fragment he was no doubt presented allows him full stretch. Stunning lyrics, spiky and full of blood; another film score if not a film. Again, another smart arrangement and this one also drags you off into a dark night… you know you want this, and Hugo’s touring soon, check out here.
When I Get my Cadillac (Cypress Grove). A damn fine song, and a damn fine version. Captures the regretful, romantic yearning in his friend’s heart; in a strange way it reminds me of that British blues scene which was so important in the 6ts.
The Journey is Long (Lydia Lunch, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Jim Sclavunos). Probably the most realistically-radio-friendly song of the bunch is followed by the most unfriendly, Jeffrey speaking to us like he’s right there on the street with us.
Shame and Pain (Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Jim Sclavunos, Mark Stewart and Jeffrey Lee Pierce with Thurston Moore). Ending side four on another dark swaggering slab of corrupted blues writ wrong, Sclavunos’ organ and fuzzy bass are positively heroic, the guitar skreeking around like drunks in cars. Rather wonderful.
These compilations must be a bastard to organise, never mind put together. The cd package beats a fucking download or a burn anyday, a lot of work has gone into this one.
And the dosh goes to Jeffrey’s favourite charities; none of the artists got a fee either.
All that on top of the music. Crackling stuff.
Five bottles, Barman. And pick up a copy for the Barmaid.