A quality array of artists fans the still-smouldering ashes of a legend that yet grows.
Chris Roberts 2012
Jeffrey Lee Pierce died aged 37 in 1996, a textbook rock casualty to excessive drink and drugs. At least the music he left behind burns: his albums with The Gun Club and their scorched-earth white-boy blues broke open territory that Pixies and The White Stripes (among others) would go on to explore, and solo album Wildweed was disarmingly romantic. He’s still being celebrated – for the art and not the self-destruction, one hopes. Whether he’d have forged an enduring career like that of peer Nick Cave is debatable, but the best Gun Club fusillades – single Fire of Love, album The Las Vegas Story – delivered much and promised more.
Pierce, born in LA but something of an Anglophile, carved a persona from goth, glam and roots to roar and charm. As Blondie’s US fan club president, he was as influenced by pop and punk as by Robert Johnson or The Doors, so his songs could be melodic, anarchic, or both. This second in a planned trilogy of not-exactly-tribute albums demonstrates as much (2009’s We Are Only Riders led the way). What it is not is a bunch of covers (though there are a couple of those.) Later-years collaborator Cypress Grove found a batch of Jeffrey’s cassette demos and works-in-progress in his loft, and a group of former colleagues, friends and admirers have effectively coloured these sketches in, bringing them to strange fruition. (Proceeds go to charity.)
The credits have Pierce playing guitar on some, nothing on others, but his stamp is loud and clear on the gutsy flair of From Death to Texas (performed by Steve Wynn) or the keening tug of The Breaking Hands (which is interpreted here twice, first by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell and then by the dream pairing of Nick Cave and Deborah Harry, who are joined by Mick Harvey and Chris Stein). Cave also sings City in Pain, this album’s opener, all restrained aggression and controlled desire. Harvey depicts an eerie-lovely St. Mark’s Place, while Barry Adamson, Lydia Lunch and The Jim Jones Revue are also committed believers, fanning the still-smouldering ashes of a legend that yet grows.