Jesus Jones adds dark tones to driving sound on PerversePerverse
By Douglas D. Keller
The winds of rock can be kind or cruel. Bands that enjoy great success may continue to do so for many years or may fall by the wayside within a couple of months. Albums that seem to speak to us, move us, may soon be collecting dust upon our CD racks. The latter often occurs in alternative rock, where a band can forge out a new style only to be overshadowed and sometimes crushed by its successors.
Until their new album, Perverse, reached me last week, I thought that Jesus Jones had been swept aside. It was less than two years ago that they released their second album, Doubt, which spent six weeks at number 1 on Billboard's Alternative Chart. In the spring of 1991, they were one of the major attractions at the Earth Day concert in Foxboro and played the same night before a large crowd here at MIT as the headliner for Spring Weekend. I nearly wore grooves in the CD playing it over and over during the spring and summer.
I don't know if it was because "Right Here, Right Now," "Who? Where? Why?," and "Real Real Real" were overplayed on the radio or on my CD player, but I now find it difficult to listen to the whole album in one sitting. I have always enjoyed listening to Jesus Jones for their socially conscious lyrics and creative samplings but Doubt will always stick in my mind as an extremely "poppy" album.
This is not the case with their new Perverse, by far a darker and more brooding album than its predecessor. The songs are a significant departure from those on Doubt as the band continues its extensive use of sampling, "drum type sounds," and keyboards to create a driving sound. Perverse is by no means a techno album, but there are distinctly techno elements within most of the songs. Songs such as "Idiot Stare" make extensive use of repeating drum tracks, but there are fast and slow movements within the song which add a richness to this and other tracks that is missing in most techno singles.
At times the album presents contradictory messages. For example, the pounding track "Magazine" celebrates the distortion of current events in the media while "Don't Believe It" makes a biting criticism of the media. The liner notes for "Don't Believe It" read "May '92, with a little ignorance and media manipulation, there is a whipping boy for every occasion. On our side, truth, decency, and the right way to talk, on the other side, our perfect enemy out for revenge."
Jesus Jones is the collaboration of Jerry De Borg (300 hz to 8 khz), Al Jaworski (20 hz to 4 khz), Gen (drum type sounds), Iain Baker (omnipresent), and Mike Edwards (first generation (unsampled) vocals, and sole writer). The first track on the album is "Zeroes and Ones," which is fitting since most of the music on the album was recorded onto floppy disk at Mike Edwards's house. "Zeroes and Ones" concerns itself with the increasing prominence of computers in daily life, from pocket calculators and shopping at home to missile guiding and virtual sex. The song is both a celebration of the power of computers and a warning about the control that they exerts over our lives.
It is difficult to guess the course of musical history, to be certain whether Perverse will be a "future classic" or will be collecting dust in six months. Techno seems to be reinventing itself every six months and the message and method of Jesus Jones' latest may be archaic in a year's time. Still, Perverse is an engaging album with very contemporary ideas and the potential to shape the course of alternative and techno in the near future.