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Without Judgement

Jah Wobble

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Album Review

Following his split from P.I.L. in the early '80s, bassist Jah Wobble was more likely to be found sweeping tubeway stations than performing on stages, and by the middle of the decade, his musical output had all but ground to a halt. It was not until 1986, when Wobble met guitarist Justin Adams, that his creative juices began flowing again. The two hit it off musically, and began experimenting with a diverse palette of pop, dub, Middle Eastern, and North African influences. This laid the foundation for what would eventually become their new group, Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart. Keyboard/percussionist David Harrow and Urban Dance Squad drummer Michel Schoots joined soon after, and the quartet began earnestly working on new material. By 1987, the band had worked out a polished live set and decided it was time to take the show to the Netherlands (where Wobble still had an avid following), do a tour, and record. The result was JWIOTH's debut album Without Judgement.

Pieced together from live, two-track DAT recordings made during performances in Holland, the album managed to sound relaxed, free, and spontaneous while maintaining an air of calculation and precision. Unlike most live albums, the fact that Without Judgement was, indeed, recorded live was not immediately apparent. The only crowd noise present occurred during the fade-out of the last track and the album itself was edited together in such a way that full songs found themselves placed among snippets of instrumental interlude and sound atmospherics. This unconventional approach may have seemed like a recipe for disaster, but in the talented hands of editor Step Parikian, the flow between musical ideas was tasteful, seamless, and, above all, interesting.

All of the influences that would later define Jah Wobble's style could be found on Without Judgement, in their raw forms. Wobble's characteristically simple, catchy, and repetitive bass-hooks were just coming into maturity, and served as the main driving force throughout the album. Typified by tunes like the menacing-but-groovy "What the Problem Is" and the Bowie-esque "What Will You Say," Jah Wobble's bass mantras proved to be as creative as they were insistent. His songwriting was also maturing and subject matter ran the gamut from the spiritual ("Good Ghosts") to the satirical ("Burger Bar"). The North African and Middle Eastern influences (which permeated all of Wobble's later work) could be found peppered throughout Without Judgement, and were most apparent in Justin Adams' psycho-arabic guitar solos and David Harrow's ethnic-tinged samples. With all of these fresh elements, raw guts, and polished execution, Without Judgement still shines as the toughest album Jah Wobble has made under his own name. Fans of his later, more ambient work (mid-'90s and beyond) may find this record's aggressiveness alarming; but longtime fans will agree, although not representational of Jah Wobble's entire body of work, Without Judgement is absolutely essential. ~ J. Scott McClintock, Rovi

Biography

Born: 1958 in Stepney, London, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Born John Wardle, Wobble was an old friend of Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten. When the Pistols broke up, Rotten formed Public Image Ltd., and Wobble became the bass player. After the group's first few albums, Wobble had a falling out with Rotten (now Lydon) and guitarist Keith Levene and departed for a solo career, also collaborating with artists such as Can members Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay and U2's the Edge. Wobble's solo repertoire ranges from pop to pseudo-reggae to "difficult to listen...
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Without Judgement, Jah Wobble
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