[L]ondon’s The Jim Jones Revue have made a name for themselves as a high octane rockabilly thrill ride, often described as “teeth chattering,” and not unlike Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire shot through a particle accelerator at Dr. Feelgood’s Milk and Alcohol. The band’s previous records have spent enough time in the red to make the Stooges sound tame, but their third album, the Savage Heart, exhibits a new found sense of restraint that transforms the band from garage rock novelty to full on rock & roll powerhouse.
The familiar sounds of hard-charging rockabilly are certainly present and accounted for, but the influence of producer Jim Sclavunos (of the Bad Seeds and Grinderman) is much more pronounced in his sophomore collaboration with the band. They land in new territory, often with thrilling results, showcasing Jones’ nuanced vocals and the prodigious fingers of keyboardist Henri Herbert. This isn’t to suggest that the band ever lets up, however. Even when stripped down to a bare minimum, revealing new found tribal sensibilities, the Jim Jones Revue sounds as menacing as ever.
The album peels out with It’s Gotta Be About Me, setting the brash tone of the record with a sneering mid-tempo boogie about self-absorption laced with enough ’50s cool to keep your hair slicked back for the remainder of the ride. (“You keep insistin’ but I’m still not listenin’… you want me to D-I-G? It’s gotta be about me.”) Elsewhere, the band finds familiar territory with the carnal Never Let You Go (“She got me tied up tight with my fingers crossed / She got all the Hail Marys that it’s gonna cost”), Where ‘da Money Go?, a nod to the band’s working-class second-wave pub rock influences, and Catastrophe, which slams you in the gut with the brilliant delivery of “You light up my life like an angler fish.” (Google it.)
The rest of the album is largely exploration. 7 Times Around the Sun is a stripped down stomp-and-holler spiritual with a call-and-response that places the band firmly in Nick Cave territory. Chain Gang is a dark and brooding ballad, where Jones describes birth as “landing through your thighs,” and delivers a vocal performance that borders on vulnerable, adding new depth to his fire and brimstone persona. In and Out of Harm’s Way again veers towards Nick Cave or maybe Tom Waits, sounding at times like a runaway steam engine plunging into the darkness. And Midnight Oceans & the Savage Heart is a fuzzed out doo-wop ballad, an ethereal croon-job riding on delicately fedback guitars.
But Jones’ most convincing portrayal is found between the snickers and sneers of Eagle Eye Ball, a creeping stalker ballad. He plays the role to chilling effect, and the band fits all the thrills of a horror flick into four minutes and forty-five seconds of manic, off-kilter rock & roll. “You know I’m in the shadows, but it’s not ’cause I’m shy.”
It’s difficult to criticize a band like The Jim Jones Revue who exist entirely on their own terms. At best you can bear witness to a rock & roll religious service where the clergy is in top form, producing it’s finest, most varied, and most convincing work to date. The Savage Heart is cool, it’s menacing, and it’s performed with a passion and proficiency that shows a deep reverence for the entire canon of rock & roll without once relying on it. In short, it makes other bands look like they’re barely trying. Can I get an amen?Editors Note | We don’t have a release date for the album in the US quite yet, we’re hearing rumors of 10/23 but we’re not seeing anything concrete as of yet.