The Upshot: Final recordings from the legendary band, and a fitting tribute – complete with a number of sonic surprises – to their late frontman, Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
BY FRED MILLS
Quite a few of us out here in the Amerindie wilderness go way back with the Gun Club; me, I was a record store employee drafted by Slash/Ruby Records to be a Slash street-teamer (long before the term “street team” had been coined around the time of the release of the first Gun Club and Blasters LPs, and as a result I was not only in on the Jeffrey Lee Pierce story nearly from the get-go, on the Gun Club’s first U.S. tour I was able to hang out with Pierce and his bandmates for two memorable evenings in North Carolina. (Ask me about the time he “bought” drinks from everyone in the bar the band was playing but managed to skip out on the tab while still getting paid for the gig.) Years later, when The Fire Of Love saw expanded/remastered reissue in late 2004, I was privileged to do interviews with original drummer Terry Graham and the late Pierce’s sister Jacqui, both of whom pulled the veil of history back for me just a bit, allowing me some fresh insights into the man and his muse.
In My Room, then, closes the Gun Club book, representing as it does the group’s final recordings, originally cut in ’91 and ’93 in Netherlands studios, featuring the Pierce/Romi Mori/Kid Congo/Nick Sanderson lineup doing a selection of Pierce originals and covers. The latter contain their fair share of raised-eyebrows moments, because while oldie “Land of 1000 Dances” has always been part of the garage-rock and new wave vernacular, it’s safe to say that “I Can’t Explain” doesn’t come immediately to mind when one thinks of the Gun Club (it’s still a pretty satisfying-in-a-thuggish-way version), and neither Willie Nelson’s “Not Supposed to Be That Way” (here, a straight country-folk take featuring dobro and lap steel) nor Kenny Rogers & the First Edition’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (ditto) are likely to be considered classic renditions. That said, as they are part of a session that also included a redone, countryish version of GC gem “Mother Earth,” they do make psychic and sonic sense if you’ve followed Pierce and his rambling muse over the years. (There’s also a quasi-cover: “Shame and Pain” nicks part of the melody and vocal chorus from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.” It’s a jarring effect.)
The full-on electric material is the main reason to grab this vinyl album (which, we should note, comes smartly packaged in a gatefold sleeve that features lyrics plus a positively haunting portrait of a dark-eyed Pierce beside Mori). The lengthy “Sorrow Knows” has an almost Velvets-meets-The-Clean vibe, with Pierce and Powers serving up oppositional guitar textures amid a droning, psychedelic ambiance. And speaking of unexpected vibrations, “L.A. Is Always Real” lays bare an additional Pierce influence: Television, with elegantly twisted leads and crystalline pop melodies spooling forth. There’s even a kind of dissonant blues, “City in Pain,” indicative of another one of Pierce’s obsessions that certainly surfaced with regularity in the Gun Club, but here posits the band as one of the most unlikely blues mixtape mavens ever.
Posthumous compilations are always a tricky proposition, but in this instance, considering the songs’ proximate provenance, In My Room, for the most part, holds its own, and no long-time Gun Club devotee will be disappointed.
DOWNLOAD: “Sorrow Knows,” “City In Pain,” “Mother Earth”