Runaways - Kim Salmon and Spencer P. Jones (Incubator Recording)
Here’s a tip. If you don’t own this disc, get it now. And buy it for everyone you know who loves music.
If you want to know why, start here: The website for Incubator Studio where it was recorded.
Pretty impressive, I think you’ll agree. The studio has a photo gallery too, there’s a shot of Kim scaring the photographer so he makes Kim all fuzzy, and there’s a shot of Spencer in what appears to be a button-up shirt (hold the front page!)
So seven of the 12 songs here are covers? I just want to say that CDs like "Runaways" are what we hang out for. People so steeped and dug-in to their musical past that whenever these musicians approach an oldie, they can’t help but make something so uniquely, perfectly interpreted that you instantly forget all those blasted note-by-rote cover outfits you’ve endured over the years.
"Runaways" is The Real Deal. Like Mick Harvey, Salmon and Jones (or Jones and Salmon) approach a song with respect, looking at the meaning, all the twists, all the implications. Then they wrap the music together. To quote Salmon’s website, ‘we had nowhere to hide’.
OK, also, we need to talk about The Concept LP. Once upon a time Concept LPs were vast stodge monsters pludging across the charts, no-one knew what they were doing there, but by god there they were and punters were plunging hands into pockets for about four half-decent songs, getting them home, listening with increasing horror before transferring three of the songs to a compilation tape about eight years later. There were of course notable exceptions, the ‘Oo’s "Quadrophenia" for one such.
Jones and Salmon (or Salmon and Jones, take your pick) are two of this country’s most important, loved and exciting musicians. The language these two guitarists speak is a joyful indulgence. Fastidious guitarists who play properly and tidily should keep away. "Runaways" is a noisy beast, heavy on the emphasis and strong on breadth, breath and quality.
I’ve said this before, but our mainstream industry’s idiot prejudice toward the young and bepimpled, the beardy and the posing is absurd in the face of cds like this. It ain’t about being able to play, but how you play. It ain’t about fitting in, it’s about tuning in, turning on and dropping out until the world comes to you. And if it doesn’t, tough shit old world, go back to your Pinks, Lynrd Skynrds and all the other nostalgic shit which pretends yesterday is today.
The first song in is Salmon and Jones (or Jones and Salmon)’s "A Bitter Projection" which, frankly, should be a hit. Given that they were doing this as a sort of one-off challenge to themselves, you can only stand back in admiration. I Asked for Water is bloody fabulous, Salmon channeling Howlin Wolf like he’s burning, pushing it… the production reveals every nodule, every scrape, howl, threat and declaration. Their guitars joust, checking each other out, daring each other, seeing who can top who. I once saw Spencer do this with Rowland S. Howard during "Shotgun Wedding", and this is comparable in intensity and intelligence. Affectionate, grim, playful, brutal. Extraordinary.
Their tenderly ugly interpretation of "I Need Somebody", with it’s broken-down guitar, crunching, complaining, snorting and bellowing, is just bang-on. Is That All There Is features a couple of brilliant, funny snapshots into Salmon and Jones’ lives - and I think at this point I’d better point out what seems obvious to me but no-one else seems to have noticed. Runaways appears to be the most personal - even introspective - of their records, which I suppose shows you just how close these two men are in temperament and talent.
"It’s All The Same" is another one of those I wish were a hit - you can imagine the film clip spinning in your head, and the song could open or close a film.
Spencer revisits his memorable stint with Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club with "Jack on Fire", and it ain’t what you think it is. Jeffrey himself would’ve loved this version, all wound up and unravelling. It’s lovely.
"Loose Ends" (another original) is an utterly beautiful creature, you can hear the wilderness breathing. The Monkey follows, another superb song, then their inspired version of Kanye West’s "Runaway", with Spencer and Kim bouncing off each other.
Don’t get me started on "Scorched Earth Pearl." It’s a massive hit, just huge. You can’t tear yourself away, dragged in like a kid to chocolate or a dog to caramel. It’s lush, spiky, fizzy and droll. And more.
"Runaways" closes with two of their cherished, under-appreciated early loves, Alex Chilton’s Underclass - a more mature, reflective version, where we glimpse the tragedies beneath the fingernails - and Only Ones’ The Whole of the Law - Peter Perrett’s forceful, driving story-telling decades ahead of his time - brings the entire disc - and the Salmon Jones story - full circle.
Like I said, "Runaways" is a hell of a fine thing, and you gulp in their intense, rough friendship.
Adrian Akkerman’s production is right on the money, not too much and not too shy; Michael Stranges fits into the sound extremely well. Salmon and Jones (or Jones and Salmon)’s performances are sparkling, incredibly bright and inspirational (yes, that overused word, but accurate in this case).
Now, I don’t want to explain, but either by intent or sheer fucking genius, this little collection tell a tale in such a clever way that "Runaways" may as well be a soundtrack to a bloody good film that hasn’t yet been made. Over to you, Mr Lowenstein.
"Runaways" should spin in your machine for months, years; the advertising men should be on the phone begging to use every song. This is a classic in the sense of a familiar favourite blanket, a quiet Sunday with a bottle of red, or a buzzy Monday morning, or a long drive through the crowded city without a damn care on your mind … well, yeah. You get the picture? If you own anything with these gentlemen, Salmon and Jones (or Jones and Salmon), Runaways is essential.
Bottles? Six, folks. Runaways ain’t just brilliant, these men are our DNA.