Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Record Review - Kim Salmon / Spencer P Jones

Published on Mess+Noise, February 2013.  Unedited version below.

Kim Salmon & Spencer P Jones

12 Track, LP (2013, Independent)

Last week, I read with interest Patrick Emery’s two-part Icons piece on the legendary Beasts Of Bourbon, a longtime favourite band of mine, one who helped shape my rock ‘n’ roll outlook, and who taught me that you don’t have to colour within the lines, that it’s OK to stray, to explore, to antagonise.

It was both poignant and interesting then, to listen to Runaways, the newest cut from two Beasts’ alum in Kim Salmon and Spencer P Jones, a couple of this country’s more notorious protagonists, rock ‘n’ roll outlaws to a tee. It’s poignant in that the record is being released so close to this BoB reformation, and interesting to see where these two are in 2013, after almost a lifetime of numerous variations on a theme, compared with where they were, circa The Axeman’s Jazz.

To be honest, where they are is in the same neighbourhood. Perhaps even the same sharehouse, for Runaways is a gloriously fucked up example of the same kind of middle-finger-in-the-air, pile of cans by the drum kit rock ‘n’ roll the Beasts made their own, back in 1983. Perhaps it’s not quite as alcohol-fuelled, but it’s a stark, naked look at how Salmon and Jones haven’t moved on from that form in this instance.

At the same time though, it’s also a look at their loyalty, perhaps their stubbornness, their refusal to do anything but what they want, how they want to do it, when they want it done by. And as a result, Runaways is a triumph. A scruffy, filthy triumph.

One of three projects Salmon is currently working on, or has been working on recently, this was the last one to begin, and the first to be released. Along with drummer Mike Stranges (no bass player, they took turns on the four-string), Salmon and Jones set up camp in Incubator Studios, and got down to business.

As salmon wrote on his blog, late last year: “I’d write my lyrics while Spencer was tracking, and he’d do the same while I was tracking. Somehow, our day to day lives didn’t give us the opportunity to be prepared for this recording and consequently what’s gone down is the real deal. We had nowhere to hide. I can truly say that this is an honest recording of a couple of rock ‘n’ roll musos in their mid-fifties. It’s a consequence of their lives lived! It’s brought it home to me that one can never really be prepared, so one should just be in the moment and do ones best.”

So Runaways is a rock ‘n’ roll record, through and through. From the Jon Spencer-like urgency of The Gun Club’s ‘A Cool Drink Of Water’, to the drunken, strip club sleaze of ‘Is That All There Is’ (where Salmon waxes lyrical about his first gig, in a strip club, and Jones describes the aftermath of a party where he wakes up on a couch to find his penis in another man’s mouth), it’s an album that spills over you like the amber ale from a knocked over schooner, staggering around like an ‘80s rock pig after ten of the same.

Then there’s a slight deviation from the mean – not so much sonically, but in terms of song choice, for the title track is indeed the Kanye West number, ‘Runaway’. What possessed the pair to dig this one up is beyond me, but what they do to it is bend it over and, against its wishes… well, you get the picture. Both Salmon and Jones take a turn at rapping the lyrics at one point too, which in itself, seals the deal.

Towards the end of the record, things change a little more. Gone, temporarily, is the thrashy rock abandon, in its place a few more considered tracks, like the pair decided they couldn’t get away with an entire album of their old brand of fuzzed out jangle. The country/blues of ‘Scorched Earth Mother Pearl’ is like a ray of sunlight post-storm, mandolin and guitars ride bareback over Stranges’ lethargic beat, and while it still retains the ‘rock’, it seems to come from a different place, a more mature place, dare I say.

The slow, jangle continues with ‘Underclass’, scruffy harmony vocals, a definite touch of jazz in some of the guitar playing, and again, a bit more of that JSBX vibe, like something is about to explode, but doesn’t. Finishing up with the melancholy country-ish balladry of The Only Ones’ ‘The Whole Of The Law’, Runaways draws to a close and you’re left sitting there in stark surprise, like someone just turned on the lights and caught you masturbating. But you made it, so it’s sort of OK.

Runaways is nothing new, but it’s a record which is exactly as it should be, given who made it, how they made it, why they made it. It’s a grubby gem, which to my mind, is perfect.

Samuel J. Fell

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