Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Jones’

Christopher Nosnibor

Books have a slower diffusion than records, although they too can have a far slower diffusion than the industry cycle accommodates. If it’s not a hit in week one it’s sunk and you’re fucked. This story is not a new one, although in his autobiography, initially penned around 1998, circulated as a .PDF around 2001 and finally first seeing the light of day in 2014 before being republished in 2019 – Mike Edwards lays it bare.

I never really got into Jesus Jones. Perhaps I never really ‘got’ Jesus Jones. Back in the early 90s, I was primarily into goth and industrial and the heavier end of the current bands – The Sisters of Mercy, Swans, Ministry, Therapy? were my staples and the bands I’d whack onto the sixth-form stereo, often to complaints from my peers – particularly a mate who was absolutely rabid about Jesus Jones and Faith No More. Jesus Jones always sounded a bit soft to my ears, a bit lightweight, limp, and poppy. Having seen them live for only the second time in 2021 supporting The Sisters of Mercy at The Roundhouse, I can’t say I was converted: they still sounded lightweight, limp, and poppy, but I did find a newfound respect: they played hard, and it’s hard to deny the hooks – and the fact that they’re survivors.

Death Threats from an Eight-Year Old makes for an interesting read, in that it is very much told from the perspective of a band whose survival wasn’t so assured having crashed out of favour and the public eye after their ascendance and commercial peak in the mid-90s.

The other time I saw them was on the way up. I laughed when their guitarist fell off the stage at Wembley Arena when supporting The Cure as part of Radio 1’s ‘Great British Music Weekend’ in ‘91. That doesn’t get mentioned in Mike Edwards’ autobiography. But then, there’s a lot that doesn’t get mentioned.

Having written on Charlie Beddoes’ autobiography being an atypical work, from the perspective of a hard-gigging musical who never attained the status of being a household name, Mike Edwards’ book is also atypical of the genre and while it’s not quite an inversion, following a riches to rags trajectory, it is certainly not your regular celebrity spill brimming with tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess, and is instead a tale of an unceremonious decline, of struggles and slogs, and mountain biking. There’s probably more in this book about cycling than music, which would be incredibly dull to anyone who isn’t into biking if it weren’t for the context.

There are no real anecdotes here, tour-based or otherwise, at least from the ‘fame’ years, but then ultimately, the sketchiness is integral to the overall arc of the narrative of this comparatively slim tome. The fame years – barely three of them – were a blur of touring and promotion, and Edwards captures this nicely.

It’s appropriate, contextually, that as much ink is devoted to detailing the laborious process of recording the fourth album as the entirety of the band’s preceding years – since both spanned around the same amount of time, and Edwards’ recounting of the frustration of both the practicalities of the process and dealing with label shenanigans is illuminating.

And it’s an interesting and worthwhile read for this. Groupies and TV appearances are the glamourous public side of being in a band: long hours slogging to achieve practically nothing for years is the grim reality behind the scenes, and these sections contain some of Edwards’ best writing, too.

It’s sometimes easy to confuse accessible for poorly written. Edwards’ book is accessible, and in the main well-written, although the prose is s shade patchy and sometimes feels rather rushed, leaving narrative gaps where it’s difficult for the reader to join the dots. A few pages in we read that his band played a show where his future wife attended, then just a dozen or so pages later, Jesus Jones’ career has exploded and is on the decline and his life and marriage are crumbling in disarray. Worse than this, there are times when he feels rather too keen to remind us just how fucking famous he was, and how we earned some decent wedge and despite things going down the pan, he managed to maintain his place in the higher tax band. It’s quite the contrast to Beddoes with her squats and cramped flats and sofa-surfing bandmates, and does make it that bit harder to be quite so sympathetic to his plight. That said, he offers insights and reflections which are quite moving, and you realise just how hard it must be to descend from such heights and so quickly.

Edwards certainly doesn’t hold back in his criticism of the British music press: ‘If you call a spade a spade, you call a British music journalist a cunt’ – although given the press’ general dislike of the band, it’s a loathing that’s not unjustified. The NME, in particular appear to ave been unnecessarily vindictive. His discourse on his and the band’s relationship with the music press is interesting, in particular the blackballing in the UK media of the band ahead of the release of Already, an album that completely bypassed me too, and now it seems for obvious reasons.

But if there’s any proof that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, the complete absence of any coverage of Already was clearly a major factor in its total failure to shift units.

And, more than anything else, Death Threats from an Eight-Year Old is worth reading for this insight into what happens when the press have no interest and the label can’t be arsed. The takeaway is, ultimately, that the music industry is as fickle as it gets, and just how fucked up it all is. Consequently, being a fan of Jesus Jones is by no means a prerequisite for reading this book, and it’s a quick and mostly enjoyable read which makes it worthwhile.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Last week, there was a brief buzz around the Internet observing that on 1st September 2021, 1980 was as far away as the start of World War 2 was in 1980. It’s one of those startling perspective moments that takes some computing. Being five in 1980, WW2 felt like ancient history, despite the fact my father was born before the end of the war. To me, the music of the 1980s still feels comparatively recent, and I can recall events from the 80s – The Falklands War, for example – with remarkable clarity. And yet I have colleagues who are adults who weren’t even born until the late 90s, who feel the music of the 80s is as relevant to them as I find most music of the 50s and 60s.

It seems crazy to think, then, that The Sisters of Mercy’s last studio album was released a few months before their tenth anniversary shows in Leeds in February 1991, and now, here we are, belatedly marking their fortieth year in existence. Not that no new album means no new material: they may still play a lot of old favourites, but The Sisters are by no means a heritage band (seemingly to the annoyance of some of their older fans who lament the fact they don’t still sound like it’s 1985).

This trio of dates sees a different support act each night, and if the return of previous recent supports AA Williams and I Like Trains makes perfect sense, Jesus Jones being tonight’s openers seemed like an odd choice.

The last time I saw Jesus Jones was supporting The Cure as part of Radio 1’s Great British Music Weekend in December 91. I’d never really been a fan, and the highlight of their set for me was the dreadlocked guitarist falling off the stage. Still, they were fun enough, and the same is true thirty years later. As they kick off with the indie rave bleepfest of ‘Zeros and Ones’ I’m immediately reminded that while the guitar sound was alright, they were just too melodic and lacking in nuts for my taste. ‘Right Here, Right Now’, with its baggy beat sounds both dated and a bit thin. Bassist Al Doughty throws Peter Hook shapes, while Ian baker nominally plays keyboards, spending most of the set charging around the stage and lurching his keyboard around on its stand. It was annoying back in the 90s, and it’s perhaps even more annoying now. Interestingly, for a band with a lot of hits, they tend to focus more on material from the rather edgier first album, with ‘Info Freako’ being a clear set highlight.

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Jesus Jones

There’s some grand JG Thirlwell-style style dramatic orchestral ambient cross played over the PA between bands, and with lights moving a curtain suspended from the incredibly high ceiling, the sense of theatre, and of occasion, are considerable, not least of all the nod to the band’s legendary ‘Wake’ performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1985. Tonight, the curtain comes down rather than up to reveal the band in positions, from which they step forward and positively burst into ‘But Genevieve’. It’s immediately apparent that the three of them have been itching to get out to do this, and the rare level of energy Eldritch had shown on the last tour, just days before lockdown in March 2020 is exceeded here. Effusing welcomes and greetings with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s uncharacteristic to say the least, but it’s a joyous reunion that’s massively appreciated by the gathered crowd, which spans a notable demographic, including a lot of people, both male and female, who were probably barely born around the time of the twentieth anniversary show, let alone the tenth. And why not? For all the ‘goth’ copyists who’ve emerged through the years, there is only one Sisters.

They’re straight into ‘Ribbons’, and it’s stonking, delivered with real zeal, before steaming into a full-throttle ‘Crash and Burn’, which has long been a standout among the post-studio year. If tonight’s set list is remarkably similar to that of the Leeds show last year, it’s hard to find fault in the song selection: there will always be songs that would have bene nice to hear – ‘Better Reptile’, for example, or, indeed anything from the Reptile House EP, but you have to hand it to The Sisters for remaining true to their lack of compromise. Any other band with their catalogue would have dug up ‘Body Electric’ and more earlier songs for a truly career-spanning set to mark the occasion. But that simply isn’t how they work. Deal with it, or don’t.

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The Sisters of Mercy

Being the first night, a few minor slips were probably to be expected – there were missed cues for both guitarists, wrong chords and wrong lyrics, but these were all part of the buzz: for so many years, The Sisters have been accused of going through the motions or otherwise playing safe. Tonight, they’re giving it everything and more. That it’s not always pitch-perfect is part of the appeal, and reminds of the Sisters of old, with a particularly interesting / old style vocal performance on ‘No Time to Cry’, a song Eldritch has always seemed to struggle with by writing lyrical lines too long without a pause for breath. He does, however, manage occasional sups from a bottle of something that most certainly isn’t water between songs and sometimes verses, and this seems to keep him buoyant and energised.

After blasting through strong renditions of ‘Alice, ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ and a brooding ‘Show Me’, Andrew gets to take a break – and no doubt have a quick fag – while the guitarists get to play rock gods and race about the stage as they showcase a new instrumental.

‘Marian’ and ‘First and Last and Always’ are dispatched at pace, before Dylan switches to acoustic guitar for ‘Black Sail’. ‘When I’m ready, motherfucker!’ Eldritch admonishes him as he strikes the first chords prematurely, but it’s good-natured banter, and it’s a strong rendition. I’m vaguely amused by the prospect that this was written while Eldritch was loafing around watching Netflix’s airing of the raunchy pirate series prequel to Treasure Island. Heave away, indeed. It’s followed by a personal favourite of mine, ‘I Was Wrong’. Eldritch was always a deft lyricist, and ‘I can love my fellow man / but I’m damned if I’ll love yours’ is a classic.

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The Sisters of Mercy

It paves the way for a truly searing rendition of ‘Flood II’, with ben Christo’s guitar blistering and burning from the very first howls of feedback, and Eldritch again finds his full voice. He may not hit all the right notes on a technical level, but is unquestionably at his best when he just fucking goes for it and sings up instead of mumbling and growling. So, to be clear to the detractors: missed notes and off-key but performed with passion beats grumbling low in the mix while trying to hold the tune. That said, his voice sounds stronger now than at any point on the last decade or more, and it seems fair to say the Sisters aren’t done yet.

After the first encore of a mesmerising ‘Neverland (A Fragment)’ and the throwaway, truncated ‘Lucretia’, I’m forced to skip for a train back to York, missing the second encore – but I’ve left happy. We can’t realistically expect as fiftieth anniversary show, but for the time being, it’s a joy to see The Sisters of Mercy emerging from lockdown energised and sounding solid.