18 November 2008

Jackie-O Motherfucker – The Blood of Life


(2008, Fire Records)

In a move not dissimilar to RTX, JOMF have released a quasi-live album. The Blood of Life was recorded in one go, one night (November 29 2007) in Holland. Their last record, Valley of Fire, was a delightfully mellow slice of music that fit the cosy winter indoors to a greater degree than expected. It also made for an effective companion purchase to Radiohead’s In Rainbows.

The Blood of Life contains the last album’s title track, as well as renditions of JOMF family favourites ‘Hey! Mr Sky’ and ‘The Grave’, as well as the traditional ‘Lost Jimmy Walen’. The record closes with the sprawling ‘The Blood of Life’, more on which later.

Authenticity seems rather a big priority with this scene. As noble as their motives surely are, I always infer dishonesty when people nowadays attempt ‘legitimate’ blues/folk. It just seems a bit wrong, whether it’s this lot, No Neck Blues Band or the Black Keys. It is inherently inauthentic, a fact that cannot be changed by the hiss of tape-legitimacy, despite the evident goodwill.

The Blood of Life isn’t a bad record. It’s really rather good, once you get past the signifiers of scene. When I say this is more an alternative rock album than anything else, I mean that in a positive way.

The sedate(d) vocals are vaguely reminiscent of Thurston Moore, and the regular guitar arpeggios and sing-song melodies recall a simpler time. A time of Hoon and Farrell, of ‘Say Hello 2 Heaven’ and ‘Rotten Apple’; just shorn of the gloss and accessibility. This is presumably not what JOMF were shooting for, but it is what it is.

Listening with a critic’s ear, I cannot avoid the (seemingly intentional) flat notes, the repetition and the lack of something of which to grab hold. Like the last Lustmord, this is mood-dependent music: if you are ‘chilling’, on a ‘bean bag’, smoking a ‘jazz’ cigarette, it should more than likely prove enjoyable.

Also like the Lustmord, the most impressive song is the epic. I’m not sure why the longest of a set of similarly-paced songs should be the best (logic would suggest it’d be boring). But, whether its expanse provides more space in which to dwell, to appreciate – or whether it is due to the force of sheer inertia, ‘The Blood of Life’ is where it’s at.

An intriguing document of where a band was on one particular night, The Blood of Life makes for a fine appetiser for the next album proper, due early next year. On its own merits, this stripped-down, subtle grower may try your patience before it has time to take root.

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