Sunday, April 20, 2008

Joseph Arthur - The Second Coming

The second installment of Joseph Arthur's quartet of eps for 2008 hit the shelves on tax day (that's April 15th for those of you either outside of the US or simply evading The Law), and it was a quirky little piece of electro-flavored love. While last month's Could We Survive was somewhat ephemeral and quick to fade into the background, this new disc features several visceral tracks that refuse to be marginalized.

"Killer's Knife" is the opener and it grabs your head immediately with a sharp acoustic strum and a thick, rubbery bass sound. Sixty seconds in, and you know this is the most exciting song Joe has released this year, trumping anything on the last month's offering. You're ready for more of the same, but then the ep spins you into in unexpected place with the next cut. It's a Prince-flavored piece of rocktronica appropriately titled with a numeric as "Nothing 2 Hide", and features a slightly funky bassline with vocal parts done both in falsetto and in a helium-buzz reminiscent of the Purple one's late-80s foray into his alter-ego, 'Camille'. Greg Dulli dropped by to lend his voice to this one as well, and with so many vocal stylings darting in and out of the mix it makes you wonder if the song title was tongue-in-cheek.

The "Naked Gun"-like chug of "I Wanna Get You Alone" follows, and is the first of three tracks featuring fellow Astronaut Jen Turner on vocals; here, she takes a turn as a Lolita-like lay remarking how it's past her bedtime, while Joe's insistent call of "I wanna get you alone" repeats like the determined mantra of a desperate man.

Delightful schizophrenia follows throughout the rest of this disc. Faint echoes of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" come through on "Radio Euphoria"; "Low"-era Bowie sound effects open up "I Come Down", and a reference to the 'world's forgotten sons' superimposes the personas of Iggy Pop and Jesus Christ onto Joe's to form his own version of the Trinity. This collage of imagery fits in well on a song so heavily-laden with religious metaphors and drug references.

Then, just as you begin to wonder if he has lost himself in the crowd, Joe brings it all back around with "Hunter", the ep's languid closing track which is ultimately a self-referential nod to earlier sounds of his own. Conjuring up the ghosts of Junkyard Hearts (another quartet of eps that he recorded several years ago), it is also reminiscent of the last track on Our Shadows Will Remain, with it's preoccupation over suicide and yet another lost rock and roll soul. That time it was a dirge for Ian Curtis, but the lament seems more personal here. Nevertheless, we'll have to wait until next month's ep to find out in what manner Joseph Arthur will choose to be reborn.


Anonymous said...

Well spoken, the EP plays like a reverbed reworking of Redemption's Son if it had gone the way of "Permission" or the UK version cuts "Buy a Bag" or "You Could be in Jail". You need Eurail pass for this one!

Anonymous said...

I think 'Could We Survive' is more of an accesible record than that of 'Crazy Rain.' CWS hit me instantly and seems more traditional in regards to musical structure/ lyrics, while CR seems to be over-shadowed by some crazy dark cloud of doom. I'm trying really hard to get into CR, and I think I'm almost there, but for the time being, I will have to disagree with you on the fact that CR shows more promise than CWS. here's to 'Vagabond Skies' blowing the other EPs outta the water!