Welcome to Dig
In the age of the ubiquitous playlist and the killer Tarantino soundtrack, it it easy to forget the thrill of a new album release from your favourite band, or a thrift store discovery that stops you in your tracks. In the days where you only owned a handful of records, you would lose yourself in a teenage daydream playing the album over and over, letting the tracks work their magic deeper with every listen as you pored over the cover, and in the best of cases the inner sleeve as well, for every clue about the band and the sonic world they had summoned up. The best albums transport me back completely, their covers alone portals to the past, a chance to revisit different times and places, but also re-experience with nerve tingling accuracy the thrill of the first time. The best albums sound like nobody else, and wherever you drop the needle the band are instantly recognizable. The sense of whole is palpable: the sequence of the songs seem so indisputably right, so much so that if you ever put one of the tracks on a compilation you feel horribly thrown when you listen to the song bereft of its neighbours. These are the soundtracks of your finest hours and lowest ebbs: the music that somehow articulated your innermost emotions in a way you never could yourself.
Each week I’ll be sharing one of these albums- some well established in the indie cannon, others less celebrated- but all worth investing your time in. Take a listen- you won’t regret it.
Fire of Love by The Gun Club
This is one of those debut albums where the band just seem to have plugged in and the magic poured out. Jeffrey Lee Pierce sings like a man possessed, as he rides the black train through the swampy backwaters of the deep South. The imagery in these songs is every bit as captivating as the swamp soaked, slide-guitar driven amphetamine blues they are set to. Hearing this as a 17 year old in a sleepy English backwater, long before the internet and blanket music coverage, was an exhilarating and unsettling experience. Enticing and intimidating worlds of lost highways and motel sex are conjured up with a well turned couplet. The front cover with its voodoo imagery and no band photo let the imagination run riot, and it still does every time I hear this record. It was always a dilemma to choose which side of this record to play first- the irresistible bar chords and inspirational gibberish lyrics of Sex Beat, or flip over for the slide guitar frenzy of Ghost on the Highway drenched in scorn and beautiful lyricism-
You are simply a liar- an animal who begs and steals
Until you become a bigger creature’s meal…
Other standouts include Jack on Fire– a sleazy masterpiece of voodoo and repetition- and Fire Spirit which builds to an impassioned crescendo with lyrics that manage to be both exhilarating and strangely enigmatic at the same time.
The Gun Club never quite scaled the same heights again, with endless line up changes and various addictions doubtlessly taking their toll, but they set the bar so high with their debut there was really no way to take this new sound much further. Years later, Las Vegas Story was a noble and ambitious change of direction, and certainly has moments of majesty, largely thanks to Jeffrey Lee’s emotionally charged delivery, but for the first time listener The Fire of Love is the only place to start- sit back and feel the Voodoo!
(The closest you can come to experiencing The Gun Club magic live, now Jeffrey Lee has moved on, is to catch original member Kid Congo’s with his Pink Monkey Birds, as they often perform a choice selection from this album alongside their own mix of late night twang and Fall style twisters.
Jeffrey songs continue to inspire through the We are Only Riders project, already on its third release and attracting artists of the calibre of Nick Cave and Debbie Harry. Definitely worth a listen.)