Thursday, 5 December 2013

THE GUN CLUB



























"fire of love"
Year:    1981
Country:   US
City:    Los Angeles
Label:    Munster
Format:    CD, LP
Tracks:    11
Time:    37 min.
Genre:    rock
Style:            Avantgarde Punk












Most of the american musical idioms that preceded and shaped rockand-roll were regarded ''the Devil's music'' at one time or another - especially the blues. Early blues lyrics are rife with satires on preachers, who are depicted as hypocrites with their minds on adultery and financial gain, and often the most uncompromising blues have suggested their own pragmatic value system as an alternative to Christian values.

One would have thought that a music as fundamentally outspoken and irreligious as blues would have attracted the attention of musicians involved in punk rock, since punk, in its early days at least, was fundamentally an assault on traditional values. But many punk musicians associated blues with the blues-based rock of the 60's, a brand of music that has been very much out-of-fashion in punk circles.

Recently, as punk has outgrown its original musical limitations, musicians have been experimenting with a number of fresh approaches. Several bands, including New York's Hi Sheriffs of Blue and Memphis's Panther Burns, have begun to forge a punk-blu es hybrid. But the firstalbum of punk-blues is ''Fire of Love,'' reco rded by a Los Angeles quartet called the Gun Club and released this week by that city's Ruby label.

Ruby is a subsidiary of Slash records, and Slash records is an outgrowth of Slash magazine, Los Angeles's original punk-rock fanzine. At its best, Slash magazine was an argumentative, engagingly written publication, and two of its most interesting writers, Chris D. and Jeffrey Lee Pierce, have become songwriters and bandleaders. Chris D. fronts an on-again, off-again aggregation called the Flesh Eaters, whose ''A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die'' was the first release on the Ruby label. That album combined punk energy with jazz and ethnic influences in a highly original manner, but the lyrics to songs like ''Satan Stomp'' and ''See You in the Boneyard'' were uneven, suggesting, at their worst, the occult posturing of heavy-metal bands like Black Sabbath. The lyrics Jeffrey Lee Pierce has written for the Gun Club have some of the same concerns, but they are more coherent because they are grounded in a tradition - the blues tradition.

The key performance on the Gun Club's ''Fire of Love'' album is a version of ''Preaching the Blues,'' a Mississippi Delta blues standard recorded by Robert Johnson and Son House in the 30's. The song's gibes at Christianity are typical of blues' traditional role as a ''live now'' alternative to the church's promise of salvation in the hereafter; ''I'm gonna become a Baptist preacher,'' goes one line, ''then I sure won't have to work.''

The sound of a punk band attacking this archaic blues, with slide guitars whining madly and the drums and bass thrashing away at a deliberately manic tempo, is wildly exciting. The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to this performance - rockers who reject Christianity can certainly be as inconsistent as those who embrace it. But several of Mr. Pierce's original songs use blues imagery and explore the subject matter of traditional blues in an imaginative manner, and the band paces episodes of raw, pounding punk overdrive with a keen sense of dynamics.
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The Gun Club's ''Fire of Love'' and Bob Dylan's ''Shot of Love'' are worlds apart in terms of their diametrically opposing viewpoints. But they were both recorded in Los Angeles during the last year, they are both rock-and-roll, and they are both the work of musicians who have been fascinated, at one time or another, with the blues and other ''sinful'' music. Heard back to back, they suggest that rock is neither the Devil's music nor the Lord's - it is capable of transmitting almost any message, or (as sometimes seems to be the case) no message at all. And if the fundamentalist Bob Dylan sounds tired and somewhat confused when compared to the supercharged drive of the Gun Club, one should note that Mr. Dylan is at least 15 years old er. What k ind of music the members of the Gun Club and other punk bands will be making in 15 years' time remains to be seen.
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