Saturday, December 04, 2010

Fire of Love (1981)

The Gun Club were hangers about with such early '80s Los Angeles fixtures as X, the Blasters, and the Flesh Eaters—all associated with the Slash label, each biting off their own piece of the post-punk pie. Led by professional wolfman and occasional poet Jeffrey Lee Pierce, they attempted to corner the psychobilly segment of the market, arguably by inventing it, with varying degrees of success. Fire of Love is their first album and probably their best (the second album Miami has some nice moments too, and that's about all I know); "Sex Beat," a rollicking rip-off of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died," is the first song on the album and probably their best. Not that I mean to imply anything about shooting wads quickly. That's just the way it fell. Pierce, who sometimes sounds uncannily like Steve Wynn in the quiet parts, yelps a lot and populates his songs with Western imagery and night and intimations of death and murder and mayhem. The obvious comparison is to Jim Morrison but Pierce & crew are neither as tuneful nor as facile about engendering the grotesque outrage (though while I'm at it I'll mention that I think some of the most significant roots of psychobilly are found in L.A. Woman's "The WASP"). The band, which sometimes sounds uncannily like Dream Syndicate without the dynamics, plays to the words and the yelping with a vaguely country/western feel. But if the album seems all of a clumpy piece, lacking proper individuation let alone anything that just leaps right out and plasters itself over your face—"Sex Beat" is as close as they ever get to that—it still wears well. Produced in part by Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters, who also worked on albums by Dream Syndicate (hey, what do you know) and Green on Red, the sound is stoic and workmanlike, a kind of understated Rank and File, except for Pierce's calculated histrionics, and even they seem flattened into the mix. Somehow, however, it's all kind of comforting, and I have frequently found myself looking forward each day over the past week or so to the opportunity to play it again. It actually seems to get better and better every time through.

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  1. Just as an aside, all 3 of the band leaders, Jeffrey of Gun Clubm Steve of Dream S. and Danny of Green on Red were friends and hung out together in the 1983-1985 period. However, Jeffrey was doing his thing before either one of them. If anyone sounded like somebody, it was Steve (or Danny, where the comparison is more apt) that occasionally sounded like Jeffrey. In addition to mountains of other influences, both Steve and Danny were certainly influenced by Jeffrey. -- Chris D.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Good to know.