Dive Bars and Streetcars: Gun Club

Yeah..not some shooting range review, I hate guns. I love Jeffery Lee Pierce’s Gun Club. Your errant reviewer met Jeffrey once. He was charming and sweet and obsessed with Debbie Harry. Gun Club were punk, but not punk as you know it, Jim Jims! Cowpunk. Psychobilly blues punk, with a swampy edge. Really it seems as if Jeffrey wanted to be the premier white bluesman, and if you go looking for his blues recordings, he was actually quite good at this. Instead he became an unlikely punk hero: slightly chubby, a little freaky, gentle voiced, always singing just off key, but reliably evenly off key, in a Nico-esque deep boom. He was the purveyor of sunbleached blooze, alcohol soaked, smack-fueled gritty speed-driven punk. He didn’t seem to be much of a hard edged junkie, instead a gentle, gorgeous, darling of a man that was enamored of his own legend, but not particularly capable of living up to it. I love a loser, and Jeffrey was the quintessential L.A. loser. He should have been in New York, but it wouldn’t have suited him.

Miami is their masterpiece, the initial issue back in ’82, was panned for it’s overly compressed tinny empty sounding production. The high lonesome wail and plaintive guitars not pleasing the critics, the reissue fixes those issues to a large extent, but heck I loved it anyway. Jeffrey’s voice was left orphaned by the mix, the guitar and drums seemed left behind, and this serves as a metaphor for everything that works about this album. From the driving voodoo incantation of the cover of Creedence’s Run Through the Jungle to the driving hailstorm of Carry Home. “My burning hand!” cries Jeffrey, and tips you into an exercise in dynamics, the soft refrain of Carry Home standing stark against his desperate vocals and Dotson’s grinding country edged rockabilly-punk telecaster. There is plenty of Californian surf in the guitar, but with enough CBGB’s grime to take any hint of beach-boys sheen right out of it.

Miami doesn’t take you to Florida, it’s a David Lynch movie set in Texas where some psycho rockand roll hillbilly punk vampires keep the dive bar rocking from dusk to dawn and round to dusk again. The band seems to struggle against itself an internal fight between punk and country, blues and city punk grime. Country wins out by a hair in the closing track, Mother of Earth, taking Jeffrey down the river of pain in a chugging highway blues, motels and tv’s running on quarters, cactus lights and bar room fights. Mother Earth hold you gently, Jeffrey…

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