The Listening Post: February 2011

More snow, more cold. Time to light a fire.

  • Burning Down Your HouseThe Jim Jones Revue. They don’t make rock ‘n’ roll like this anymore. Really, they don’t. The Jim Jones Revue are a throwback to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll music, a furious hybrid of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and the proto-punk of 60s garage bands like The Sonics. This is raw, uncompromising stuff, 11 revved up rockers in barely 30 minutes. No ballads need apply. There is a certain sameness to the album as a whole; one or two change of pace songs might have served the album well as a listening experience, but the album is over so quickly there’s no time to get bored. The main purpose of the album, however, is not to be a soothing listening experience; it’s to get you off your keister and out on the dance floor until you collapse in a pool of sweat. On this level, it succeeds admirably. Like the best of the early rock ‘n’ roll it’s almost impossible to listen to this without wanting to move. George Clinton told us “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” and the Jim Jones Revue provide a mind-freeing experience. This music makes you want to shake like jelly on a plate even if, like me, you’re allergic to looking like a fool on the dance floor. I dare you to listen to this album without at least tapping your foot or playing imaginary instruments. I double dog dare you. Pianos and guitars dominate along with a frenzied, borderline inarticulate howl of vocals from Jim Jones. This is rock ‘n’ roll that should come with a warning label: playing this album loud might, in fact, burn your house down.
    Grade: B+
  • In The CityThe Jam. I’ve never been sure why The Jam were considered a punk band. I get that they played short, sharp, aggressive songs and came out of London at the height of England’s punk scene, but The Jam were always acolytes of The Who and The Small Faces, lovers of all things Mod right down to their haircuts and skinny ties. The Jam were a power pop band, in the very best sense of that term. The power pop they played was not from the “hard rock Beatles” school of Badfinger or the Raspberries, but rather the crashing, catchy two-minute anthems of the early Who. “The Kids Are Alright,” “Substitute,” “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” and “Pictures Of Lily” are the musical progenitors of “Art School,” “In The City,” and “Sounds From The Street.” Seen as punks, the label that was dropped on them by clueless music executives and critics, the Jam are lightweight. Seen correctly, as power pop heirs to the pre-Tommy Who, the Jam are titans. In The City is a nearly flawless début album, loaded with brilliant gems: “Art School,” “I’ve Changed My Address,” “I Got By In Time,” “In The City,” “Sounds From The Street,” “Time For Truth,” and “Takin’ My Love” are some of the greatest power pop songs ever put down on tape. The rest is nearly as good, from a rave up version of “Slow Down” that shreds the Beatles version to a thrashy version of the theme song to the TV show Batman (also covered, back in the day, by both the Who and the Kinks). Some of the typical punk rock subject matter raises its ugly head (“Bricks and Mortar” rails against urban planning, and features a very Who-like fadeout; “Time For Truth” asks “Whatever happened to the great empire/You bastards have turned it into manure”), and the aggressive nature of the music makes you think there’s an underpinning of inchoate punk rock anger throughout (even when there isn’t), but musically this is classicist rock music. This is smart songwriting, well-played. If you like the early Who, you will like In The City. I love the early Who, ergo….
    Grade: A

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