It was a brave move on Jim Jones’ part to disband his old group The Jim Jones Revue a year ago. By that time they had released three fine albums and were playing bigger and bigger venues; and it looked as though they might be the kind of band that steadily grew into being a pretty big deal through sheer hard work –and of course a gift for raucous garage rock. But that steady climb clearly isn’t Jones’ style. Before the Revue he had fronted Thee Hypnotics and Black Moses, so he has form in starting fresh projects, and when The Jim Jones Revue split, there was a sense that he was ready to start something new.
Enter Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind. Jones’ new band doesn’t quite pick up where his previous one left off, but they do feel like a logical progression from the final Revue album The Savage Heart. There are bluesy garage rock guitars and honky-tonk style piano, but there are also more reflective and more experimental elements. Stand-up bass and pedal steel lend slight country and western vibes, but the bass is played with a bow, and the pedal steel is given more of a whine than a twang.
At tonight’s gig Jim Sclavunos (a musician of such pedigree that Jones must feel a bit out-Jimmed) is filling in on drums, so let’s use his work with Nick Cave as an analogy. Once the Bad Seeds had fully cemented their reputation for ambitious, brooding, discontented and beautiful music, Cave and Sclavunos were among those who took a break to form side-project Grinderman, which was in-your-face, hard-rocking and a little bit sardonic. Jones seems to have done it the other way around, moving from the boisterous, bombastic Revue to the more pensive, rootsier Righteous Mind.
Tracks like Boil Yer Blood, the title track of their debut EP, are loud and raucous; and the band’s set rattles towards its climax with a rally of such songs. But the gently psychedelic 1000 Miles From The Sure is certainly more distinctive, and best of all is Hold Up, which is driven by drums, handclaps and backing vocals in counterpoint to Jones’ crooining. With the Righteous Mind he certainly gets to stretch his vocal muscles a bit more.
A Monday night crowd at a London gig is always going to be a tough one, and all the more so for a group who’ve barely released their first three tracks. The warm reception that the Righteous Mind are given is in one respect a sign of how welcome a new Jim Jones project is, but it’s also a signal that this is a band who are already hitting the right notes.