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Five Pillars of Soul

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Album Review

Back in 2002, deep in the Hoosier State of Indiana, a young sextet of university rockers that go by the name John Wilkes Booze decided to record and issue a limited-edition series dubbed Five Pillars of Soul, which would pay tribute to artists who they felt weren't given their full due, both during their own time and now. Their choices? Filmmaker, writer, and recording artist Melvin Van Peebles, 20th century boy Marc Bolan, Patty Hearst's brainwashed revolutionary SLA alter ego "Tanya," free jazz master Albert Ayler, and conceptual artist/singer/supposed Beatles destroyer Yoko Ono. Seeing those names listed together, it becomes clear that the soul in question is as much a maverick spirit as it is an electric R&B rave-up, or as the band says in the liner notes, soul is about "letting it out without keeping ourselves in check." Fast forward two years and that out of print five-volume CD-R set has been condensed into a single disc by the folks at Kill Rock Stars for the Booze's proper debut. Underneath the high artistic concept, it's a mixed bag of Stones-y acoustic blues and glam-ish maximum R&B chugging that is cut from the same garage punk cloth as the "Gospel Yeh-Yeh" of the Make-Up. The Booze are not operating a simple rock machine, though; there are saxophone howls, electronic squeals, and film dialog samples that bring a playful art rock mood to their songs. Meanwhile, the high-concept part is pretty entertaining, too, especially on the less literal tracks that keep listeners guessing just what and who all the rambling is exactly about. If there's anything wrong with Five Pillars of Soul, it might be that, outside of the original context, the high-energy presentation and high-concept lyrics don't always mesh into firm songs. The hits are more prevalent than the misses, though, and these Pillars prove to hold up the boys of Booze well. By moving the amplifiers into the library, John Wilkes Booze have become a thinking man's garage band.


Formed: 1999 in Bloomington, IN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

John Wilkes Booze arrived in 1999 as a quartet, but the noisy garage soul group from Bloomington, IN would eventually expand into a six-piece who saw themselves as a continuation of Indiana's art-punk continuum that includes, among others, the Gizmos, Zero Boys, and MX-80 Sound. Originally an off-shoot of pop-psych indie rockers the Impossible Shapes, the group began with a longer name, as the John Wilkes Booze Explosion, and featured Seth Mahern handling vocal duties, Chris Barth on bass, Jason...
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Five Pillars of Soul, John Wilkes Booze
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