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Miami

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Album Review

The sophomore record by the Gun Club bore the curse of having to follow a monolith of their own making. Fire of Love sold extremely well for an independent; it was a favorite of virtually every critic who heard it in 1981. Miami showcased a different lineup as well. Ward Dotson replaced Congo Powers (temporarily, at least) on guitar, and there were a ton of guest performances, including Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. Stein produced the album. Off the bat the disc suffers from a thin mix. Going for a rougher sound, Stein left the instruments at one level and boosted Pierce's vocal. There is plenty of guitar here, screaming and moping like a drunken orphan from the Texas flatlands, but next to its predecessor it sounds drier and reedier. Ultimately it hardly matters. Going for a higher, more desolate sound, frontman and slide player Jeffrey Lee Pierce and his band were literally on fire. The songs here, from "Carry Home," "Like Calling Up Thunder," "Devil in the Woods," "Watermelon Man," "Bad Indian," and "Texas Serenade," among others, centered themselves on a mutant form of country music that met the post-punk ethos in the desert, fought and bloodied each other, and decided to stay together. This is hardcore snake-charming music (as in water moccasins not cobras), evil, smoky, brash, and libidinally uttered. Their spooky version of an already creepy tune by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Run Through the Jungle" runs the gamut from sexual nightmare to voodoo ritual gone awry. Finally, Pierce and company pull out all the roots and reveal them for what they are: "John Hardy," is a squalling punk-blues, with the heart of the country in cardiac arrest. Dotson proved to be a fine replacement for Congo Powers, in that his style was pure Telecaster country (à la James Burton) revved by the Rolling Stones and Johnny Thunders. Miami was given a rough go when it was issued for its production. But in the bird's-eye view of history its songs stack up, track for track, with Fire of Love and continue to echo well into this long good night.

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Tribal psychobilly blues is the best way to describe the Gun Club's energetic death rock, but the band's career seemed doomed from the get-go due to leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce's reputation as an unreliable wildman, and well-publicized bouts of drunkenness dogged him throughout his career. Formed in Los Angeles in the early '80s, the band was vaguely aligned with similarly roots-inspired groups like X and the Blasters, but later picked up and relocated to the Lower East Side, resting more comfortably...
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