Live Music + Gig Reviews

Jim Jones Revue @ Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton

14 April 2012

The Jim Jones Revue have undoubted strengths but – curiously – theirsteadfast lack of originality ranks chief among them. A conspicuousthrowback dealing unapologetically and exclusively in high-octanegarage rock, it’s fair to say they’re not exactly a prospect ofeyebrow raising nuance and subtlety. On record, they sound likeNick Cave fronting the MC5. Their most recent album,duly produced by Jim Sclavunos of The Bad Seeds, is calledBurning Your House Down. They dress either in black leather or likecolonial plantation owners at a funeral. They even have thebone-headed audacity to be signed to a label called Punk Rock BluesRecords.

They of course know, and probably don’t care, that they’re about asdemonstrative as it’s possible for a band to get. However, theirgrowing reputation is really fostered on an absolute sledgehammer of alive show which is in full force tonight and this, rather than theirinfluences, probably accounts for there being as many greying andbalding pates crammed into the Slade Rooms as there are ones sportinggreased quiffs and undercuts. They may operate as a five piece but areled unilaterally on stage by Jim Jones, the snarling,sandpaper-voiced, twisted preacher of a frontman who makes for acompelling figure. Every inch the wiry – yes, Caveian – showman, allhand gestures and volatility, he dispenses with any pleasantries andbarks instructions right from the off, “EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!” The setis punctuated with similar demands, and he even crosses arms,mockingly mimicking a punter who has the temerity to adopt that samepose in his line of sight during Shoot First.

With the crowd tamed – through genuine interest or such coercion – andgladly entering into call and response refrains with James, the bandtear through a set of trademark demonic boogie-woogie. In keeping withthe MO there’s posturing and a deadpan swagger, but under the studiedscowls there’s the impression the stage antics are at least a littleplayful, drawing as many smiles from the crowd as they prompt heads tonod furiously, and that saves them from cliché. Still, deep down theywant to mean it, the measure of the seriousness seen in quiffs thatare on the verge of collapse during a squalling Burning Your HouseDown just a few songs in, Jones wildly channelling Tom Waits.Elsewhere, Rock N Roll Psychosis has a merciless intensity, the roteencore of Dishonest John making for a screaming climax.

Despite being an easy target for criticisms of homage, it’s not alllaurel resting. With the tour billed as a way of road-testing newmaterial for a forthcoming LP, there are the makings of an unlikelyspare, even cerebral, edge to new material. The first declared attemptat intimacy leads to a bit of a mid-set dip, the new song soundinglike regular JJR punishing fare, just played accidentally at halfspeed. The second one is the charm though – a largely a cappella songbuilt around a four part harmony, maracas and pared down drums, itprovides an unlikely moment of clarity.

Still, if there’s one thing that the Jim Jones Revue are irrepressiblypossessed by, it’s showmanship. As soon as there’s even a hint of alull, Jones flies off into the crowd, flails a mic stand or pulls outa pelvic thrust. Straining every sinew and demanding everything fromboth band and crowd, such an approach is canny as it’s both selfless(“This is your Saturday night!”) and inherently selfish, the band evera picture of superior, studied machismo. Sometimes it might not alwaysmatter what they do as much as what it looks like they’re doing, butthe incendiary live show means no-one in Wolverhampton is complainingtonight.

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Jim Jones Revue @ Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton