Much like “jiminy-jillikers”, the phrase “return to rock and roll basics” has been said so many times, it’s lost all meaning. Let’s call it Sam’s Town Disease. So what’s your humble critic to say when confronted with an act that has so perfectly, so gleefully, so effortlessly built a shrine to a handful of rock ‘n roll’s key sonic architects? After all, that’s exactly what the up-and-coming-in-the-UK rockers in the Jim Jones Revue have done with their Eponymous debut, originally released in 2008, but now—mercifully!—seeing the light of day stateside on vinyl in 2010. Truly, The Jim Jones Revue is exhilarating stuff.
It’s only barely an exaggeration to call The Jim Jones Revue a cross between Little Richard (that album cover piano just ain’t for show—time and again throughout the record, Elliott Mortimer rides his like a cowboy at a rodeo), Chuck Berry (both guitarist Jones and Rupert Orton must have worn out their copies of The Great Twenty-Eight) and an atom bomb explosion. A few acts of late—viz. Nick Curran and the Lowlifes, whose Reform School Girl would make a lovely companion piece to The Jim Jones Revue on your next roadtrip, FYI—have captured the frenzy and headlong rush of the primordial first blasts of rock ‘n roll, but none of them have done so with the ferocity that JJR do: the needle jumps into the red at the outset of “The Princess and the Frog” and doesn’t return to zero until 30 minutes later, when the last bits of aural decay fade at the end of the rough onomatopoeia “Cement Mixer”.
There’s nothing but highlights to recount here. Frontman Jones—who honed his chops with Britrock outfits Black Moses and Thee Hypnotics, and has easily catapulted himself into the company of great modern-day snakeoil salesmen/frontmen like Jack White and the Hives’ Pelle Almqvist—roars out of the gate on the opening R-rated retelling of “The Princess and the Frog” (quoth the Princess here, “What is this growing in my hand? You’re the man, now I understand!”). Then, for good measure, the band blows through Little Richard’s “Hey Hey Hey Hey” with a ferociousness that could level Birmingham way down in Alabama. The strolling (well, stomping) piano line of the coulda-been-title-track “Rock ‘n Roll Psychosis” keeps the song anchored just enough while Orton’s guitar goes crazy. Meanwhile, the sneering “Fish 2 Fry” and swaggering “512” close out one of the most exciting Side A’s this reviewer can recall in ages. In the band’s capable hands, rock and roll sounds dangerous again.
Retro rock has as many adherents as it does detractors, so if the thought of a rock ‘n roll throughline, beginning with the genre’s progenitors and cutting through the Stones, Faces, Jam, Blasters, White Stripes and now the Jim Jones Revue sounds abhorrent to you, please move along. But for those of us who know that what sounded great in 1956 sounds great today, well, the JJR are proud to carry on the tradition. (It should be noted, there’s also an ‘09 singles collection, Here To Save Your Soul, should you crave more JJR.) And hell, with an album of new material produced by primordial-rock friendly Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman) due later this year, 2010 is shaping up to be a great year to add the Jim Jones Revue to your continuum, er, collection.