When the notoriously difficult third album rolls around, bands arenormally faced with a stark choice: evolve or die. Normally with afollowing secured – a dedicated one with any luck – should a bandplough on with their audience in mind or bow to artistic kudos and trysomething new? This is ordinarily reflected in critical assessment;groups are either derided for a paucity of ideas or lambasted forchanging too much, especially if a new style doesn’t immediately gel.Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Damnation is an apt point at which to bring in the Jim Jones Revue.They’re fronted by the writhing, fire-and-brimstone presence of JimJones – howling and seemingly sandpaper throated, he’s a twistedpreacher figurehead – and cite Jerry Lee Lewis and LittleRichard as the classic rock ‘n’ roll cornerstones of their sound,ones shot through with a twitching, amphetamine urgency. Thesecharacteristics put the Revue in a strange position – being anunflinching anachronism removes them from the vagaries of fashion andmade their rise, based on old fashioned word of mouth and asledgehammer of a live show, a slow but irresistible one. They alsodemonstrate that they’re impervious to the third album rule ruthlesslyon The Savage Heart, a gloriously and precociously boisterousLP.
Matters at first seem in step with their eponymous debut and 2010’sBurning Your House Down. Opener It’s Gotta Be About Me is typicallyyet somehow still refreshingly direct; a demonic honky-tonk pianofiring a churning, coruscating song about selfishness and boredom,Jones screaming that only immolation could draw him from his stupor.Followed by the breathless, frenzied and lascivious Never Let You Go,it’s clear that the level of intensity is as high as ever. Here is aband that certainly don’t – even can’t – do things by halves.
Songs are recorded as live, produced impeccably by Bad Seed JimSclavunos who makes the deceptively difficult task of capturing such avital and raw sound seem easy, to the extent that a cursory listenimmediately conjures images of Jones flailing around in the studio,whipping the band up and driving them on. Lyrics are punctuated by hisfrequent yelps and improvised cries – “Come on boys!” deliciouslypunctuates Where Da Money Go? It makes for a consistently compellingand exciting listen, also retaining one of the most overlooked thingsabout the band, namely that they’re actually a load of fun.
Yet it’s the subtle, even progressive, changes – not watchwordsassociated with the band before – that really hit the mark. SevenTimes Around The Sun pivots on a menacing call and response hook, aback alley goon squad choir underpinning the song as opposed tobreakneck guitar or piano. It’s roomy and looser, with a curiousmelancholy crafted by the band for the first time, yet is still vitaland taut. In And Out Of Harm’s Way, the record’s centrepiece, evenweighs in at six minutes – three songs previously – and finds Jones inTom Waits mode, spitting out a darkly gothic tale over snakingpiano, creepy backing vocals and insistent, tribal drums. It’s likethe soundtrack to a festival held by a weird sect and is a Revue songthat innovates in thriving and drawing its vitality from what’s notbeing played as much as what is. The Savage Heart is often just that,uncompromisingly breaking new, often bleakly fertile, ground for theband, showing they can still evolve emotionally. That being the case,here’s to album four.