Last year was a black spot on the history of wild garage rock & roll. Not content with simply taking beloved, brontosaurus-subtle Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton from us, the gods also wiped The Cramps’ leather-trousered saint of sleaze Lux Interior and The Birthday Party’s elfin six-stringer Rowland S. Howard from the face of the planet. Perhaps this was vengeance on account of the sorry state of garage rock itself, jaded ‘revival’ groups and mumbling bedroom-indie rockers becoming the flagship bands of a genre that used to make people feel like they’d had a faulty mains line stuffed up their rectum.
Thankfully, London has finally coughed up a band that can more than ably fill the steel-toed winklepickers of the aforementioned. The Jim Jones Revue were borne of a clubnight that friends James Jones (wildman howler with Thee Hypnotics and Black Moses) and Rupert Orton (brother of ‘folktronica’ darling Beth) collaborated to create; aptly named ‘Not The Same Old Blues Crap’. Billing fiery new bands such as Soledad Brothers and Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash, as well as cast-iron legends like T-Model Ford, it wasn’t long before the two were itching to get on the stage themselves.
“When Jim’s band split up we decided we’d get together and see how things turned out. And it worked out really well,” explains Rupert. “We knew each other very vaguely,” adds Jim, “and usually it takes a little while to figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are and what’s your common ground, but with this group it was different. It clicked trying that Little Richard number ‘Hey Hey Hey Hey’ which was one of the songs I had in mind when I first had the vision of the band, a rock & roll song with an astonishing element of punk to it. We were wondering to ourselves, can we do this? When we tried it, it was almost like unlocking a door. I made a tape of the rehearsal and gave it to a friend who runs a club in East London. He said, “You’ve got to come down and play next Saturday” – but we’d only just got together. In the end, we decided to do it anyway and it was great, the place was full. And the first real revelation of playing live was, wow, girls are dancing! It wasn’t just geezers headbanging down the front.”
Even at this early stage, it was clear that the music the Jim Jones Revue play doesn’t inspire bobbing, or moshing, or standing at the back, arms folded and nodding. It inspires full-blooded, heart-in-mouth jiving, shimmying and twisting, to an extent where the only logical conclusion is to stamp right through the floor. It’s a straight-up, no-frills rock & roll sound, gloriously buoyed by frantic honky-tonk piano, with dollops of MC5-style licks and a sneering NYC punk vibe. As Jim attests, “people get it immediately; you don’t need any esoteric references”, and it’s this immediacy that has led the band on an endless tour, through a host of summer festivals and even an appearance on keyboard-goblin Jools Holland’s show. “We’re playing pretty much every night,” admits Jim, with an air of pride and not a hint of exhaustion. “You have to put a lot of blood and guts in to it if you want to get a blood and guts sound out of it.”
New LP ‘Burning Your House Down’ builds on the strength of their first record, still raw and dirty but with added firepower on the production side from Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos. It conjures that 1956 speaker-shredding raw power; sparking off in a magnificently unevolved manner and somehow making Jerry Lee Lewis look like Dido. It’s no wonder that everyone from Jack White to Liam Gallagher is currently getting moist for their electric stomp; I guess we were all waiting for a band weaned on the White Stripes to come and blow the apathy and irony from the East London scene, but in the end it took a bunch of veterans to do the job. The Jim Jones Revue will knock years off your life from the first shot of their gunslinging 12-bar blues, yet their guitarist is antiquated enough to have witnessed The Gun Club in the 80s. Seeing men almost twice their age laying waste to venues up and down the country every night with Springsteenian stamina must put the shits up any youngsters hoping for half a chance at rock & roll infamy, but then again they don’t really have a chance; this band have all surely sold their souls at the crossroads. As Rupert concludes, “I wouldn’t say we’re on a mission to blow everyone else out of the water. But if that happens sometimes, it happens.”