In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
Somewhere in the netherworld, Jeffrey Lee Pierce drifts
about, howling into the blackness like a wounded coyote. In
death he shares the company of the demons he sang about as
leader of the Gun Club, a band whose fusion of rockabilly,
country, southern blues and indie rock influenced such
notables as the Pixies and the White Stripes.
While the Gun Club's 1981 debut Fire Of Love is stacked with
brash country-punk winners such as Sex Beat, For The Love
Of Ivy and She's Like Heroin To Me, and 1982's
Miami is similarly rich in material, third album The
Las Vegas Story (1984) is imbued with a stronger sense of
place, albeit a wrecked and desolate urban nightscape that is
fertile ground for Pierce's dark obsessions.
The album reunited Pierce with original Gun Club guitarist
Kid Congo Powers, fresh from a three-year stint with the
Cramps, and featured new bass player Patricia Morrison, a
former bandmate of ex-The Bags drummer Terry Graham. Jeff
Eyrich, who did a better job of capturing the band's beefy
bottom-end than Blondie's Chris Stein had managed on Miami,
Walking With The Beast opens the set, driving along on
a primal drumbeat and churning guitars before country rocker
Eternally Is Here surges into gear, both songs
addressing the consequences of the demise of love. The
Stranger In Our Town is a heartbreaker from the
underworld, while My Dreams speaks of an inability to
escape the past, even in sleep.
This tumult continues with a compelling reading of Gershwin's
My Man Is Gone Now from Porgy and Bess, where
Pierce's capacity to find an unnamed note somewhere below the
true one lends depth to the tale of loneliness.
Bad America, Moonlight Motel and Give Up The Sun place
Pierce in a seedy town that is crumbling under the weight of
its excesses, mirroring his own downward trajectory towards
death at age 37.