Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Exit

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Exit

Article excerpt

Lost soul

ROCK * RICHARD COOK

Listening to the new Blondie CD, No Exit (Beyond), I was musing on the resonance of yet another rock' n' roll comeback, this time from the punchiest American pop band of its day. No Exit isn't a bad record, but it feels a bit heavy and clenched, as if the sheer effort of fitting into their old clothes was strangling the band. Then I got to track nine, "Under the Gun", and when I looked at the sleeve booklet, I realised that the song was a dedication by the composer, Chris Stein, to the singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

I thought back 16, maybe 17 years. I am sitting in a bar with Jeffrey, in a modest English town, where he and his group are playing for small English audiences. Not yet 25, he is an amiable, puppyish figure, with straggly blond hair and an unquenchable enthusiasm for music. He is the frontman for a group called the Gun Club, which is making a bit of noise as a coming thing. Their sound filters a coarse blues feel through the thrash and clatter of American "new wave", the kind of catch-all term which in the 1990s would become "indie rock". The Gun Club aren't much like their contemporaries, who would rather take off from the urbane slickness of Talking Heads or, indeed, Blondie. What Pierce is interested in is the rural howl of authentic Southern blues, and how it might sound in his hands - the hands of a polite, middle-class California kid - and in an idiom of blasted, amplified guitars and drums.

Jeffrey is an unlikely devotee of American music. At school he sang in homespun productions of things like Oklahoma!, and he remembers that kind of stuff with much the same affection as the old black music that he spent time researching at the Library of Congress. He proudly shows me a copy of an LP a fan gave him a couple of nights ago, a collection of very early tracks by the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra from the beginning of the 1920s. …

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