JESU – s/t CD (Hydra Head)
This was bought on the insistence of a friend who works in a record store. I’m sure you know the type: indie-store music-Nazi who pops a boner over something and then hounds you every time you subsequently walk into said store until the purchase is made. I know the type: I used to be one myself. For now, I’m taking a break from that role. I may well return to that position in years to come, though I’m glad to say that no-one need suffer me behind a counter whilst entering a record store in Melbourne ca. 2005.
JESU is the new band comprising of Justin Broadrick (ex-Godflesh/Head Of David) and Ted Parsons (ex-Swans/Prong). I gather you’re as excited as I was when I first heard their musical pedigree. That is, not very. Why is this? Perhaps I’m not being fair, but I do recall buying Godflesh’s Streetcleaner CD back in 1990, digging the bejesus out of it for approximately 12 months – at the time that whole Swans-esque pummel/pain/agony/angst schtick was all the rage – and then discarding it in horror after listening to a subsequent release from the band. Can’t remember its name, but it appeared that the band had decided to go into a “techno-metal” vein and thus I jumped ship. Friends, colleagues and strangers on the street inform me they found their feet again in the late ‘90s when a flesh ‘n’ bones drummer joined the band, but I’d be lying if I said I could care less. And Ted Parson? Sheez! He did some good things w/ Swans (most notably Children of God), though Prong’s entire discography, barring that Stranglers cover I dug (“Get A Grip”), stunk like year-old milk, and I should know: I once worked in a warehouse full of Prong fans, and boy did I suffer for their music.
That leaves Jesu. And that left me last week leaving a record store with a disc in my hand which I was far from convinced I should have purchased. My mind is now changed. Jesu are onto something, and much like that Kinski disc on Sub Pop I reviewed last year (whom they somewhat musically resemble), they’re not onto something particularly original or groundbreaking, though their treading of a well-worn formula is still good enough for me to want to leave it on repeat for days on end. The sound is this: take the basic template of Swans ca. Cop – those painfully slow, lurching drum beats, the thick-as-a-brick bass chords – and mix it up with a slightly spacier, dare I say “indie”, guitar/vocal moan ‘n’ fuzz a la My Bloody Valentine/Spacemen 3, and stretch eight songs out to a full (and I do mean full) CD length and you’re probably listening to the latest Jesu disc. None of that is a complaint, mind you; track 3, “Tired Of Me”, with its layered/delayed vocals, repetitive, descending guitar chords and keyboard loops gets my vote as the fuzz-doom “ballad” of this and every year. And the rest is far from shabby. “Sun Day” drags its sorry bones along for a whole ten minutes, though if the idea of a musical cocktail combining the best elements of Loveless, Perfect Prescription and Cop sounds like a drink you’d like to sip, then by all means go ahead. I’ve been sculling it all week long.
The only anomaly on the whole disc is song number 7, “Man/Woman”, which takes the aggression levels up a notch, screams its vocals out like its 1991 all over again, and for me doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in the context of the rest of the album, which is mostly steeped in fairly blissful and easy-to-consume drones, and doesn’t work for me in 2005, full stop. Maybe it’ll float your boat, but I wish they hadn’t included it on the CD. That’s my sole complaint. The production, the artwork and packaging (which must be seen and felt to be appreciated; I won’t do it justice here) and the rest of the songs which make up Jesu all come together to comprise a release which’ll undoubtedly wind up in some blowhard Top 10 of 2005 list I’ll be roped into compiling at year’s end. Mr. Broadrick, Mr. Parsons, all is forgiven.