Johnny Depp is an American actor who has been nominated for an Academy Award three times and has starred in successful films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has also leant his voice to animated pictures such as Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. He lives in France with his wife Vanessa Paradis, a French singer and actress. He is one of the highest grossing actors in the world today, with his films earning over $4.7 billion worldwide. Furthermore, he has a hardcore band from New York named in is honour. He must be pretty chuffed with himself. Although being 44-years-old he is very good looking. The ladies love him. So do gays apparently.
Despite managing to hide away from the celebrity scene that many of his Hollywood contemporaries find themselves apart of, quite a lot is known about Johnny Depp. However, relatively little is known of the band that is inspired by/infatuated with him – NYC hardcore outfit Gay For Johnny Depp. Well, for the uninitiated GFJD are a unique band to say the least. They play a spazzy form of hardcore punk, and their lyrics are usually explicitly sexual, often in relation to their beloved Johnny. Weirdly (or in this case as you might expect), promo material has been known to include rubber gloves, condoms and perhaps most unusually – bottles of Amyl Nitrite. Since forming in 2004 they have released two EPs titled: ‘Erotically Charged Dance Songs for the Desperate’ and ‘Blood: The Natural Lubricant (An Apocalyptic Adventure Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah)’. 2007 saw their first full length album –‘The Politics of Cruelty’, it also saw little change. The title wasn’t weird for once, and the songs were still, generally speaking, under three minutes – there were just more of them. But most importantly, their style hasn’t changed much and this is by no means a bad thing. The distorted, fuzzy guitars are still there, as is the general feeling of raw primitive power exerted by the band.
From the sonic whirlwind at the start of album opener ‘Cumpassion’ you can pretty much guess what awaits you on ‘The Politics of Cruelty’. The song, and the album, is modern hardcore at its wildest, with frontman Marty Leppard challenging you to “hit me” while in the background the music is heavy and distorted yet still with a sense of melody. Despite the sexual nature of the lyrics, they are also political, and in some cases they are a little bit of both – “We’re a country on all fours taking it like a ten billion dollar whore”. The craziness of the opener is matched in every song here, and energy levels rarely let up.
Throughout the album Leppards voice is the main focal point as it is so unlike what you would expect from a hardcore vocalist today. For a start it is much higher, especially in ‘Belief in God is so Adorable’, and it is such a penetrating (sexual pun, meant and not apologised for) shriek. It is safe to say that his vocals carry the band for the most part. However, that is not to say that those who play actual instruments in GFJD are untalented, because that is simply not the case. True, they are not the most technically adept band on the face of the earth, but they do all have their individual merits. The bass in ‘Very Little Good Happens…’ grooves like a mother***er, and is made all the more funky by the inclusion of a cowbell-ridden rhythm section-only interlude. Throughout the album, the basslines compliment the guitar very well, hardly ever sticking to simple root notes – this of course adds interest to the music. Completing a strong rhythm section, the drums are nothing but solid. JJ Samanen is clearly not in the same league as heavyweights such as Neil Peart or Mike Portnoy, but his beats give the often haywire music a sense of solidarity, and keep the songs strong. The guitar is very heavily distorted and jumps around all over the place. Although in ‘Lights Out!’ offers a great sense of melody with a relaxing series of notes that makes it sound like Fightstar…if they were sex-obsessed homosexuals.
Immediately following ‘Lights Out! Is the first of three throwaway interludes that drag down the quality of the album somewhat. Not only is their inclusion seemingly pointless, but their combined total of 64 seconds could have been used to have one extra ‘proper’ song on the album. Indeed, GFJD have proved on this album that it is possible to write a great song in such a short time span (well, a little over). Starting off with a swirling guitar riff, ‘You Have a Theory, I Have a Gun’ successfully manages to create tension as well as an angry, sarcastic attack on army recruiting, all in 1:12. While a fair bit longer ‘Delirium Approached (Slut Dust)’ is similar in that it does a lot in a short time span. What the song does, is provide a stark contrast to the rest of the album as it has more in common with a band such as Placebo than someone like Black Flag. It’s blues-esque guitar progression and near-whispered, breathy vocals make it stand out from the screaming, distortion and general craziness that follows it in ‘To The Alcoholics: Life IS Depressing’.
While some would have expected, maybe even wanted a change from Gay For Johnny Depp on this, their third release, this is technically their debut so perhaps it doesn’t really matter that it isn’t all that different from their two EPs. Musically, all three are similar, and also in quality; ‘Erotically Charged Dance Songs for the Desperate’ and ‘Blood: The Natural Lubricant (An Apocalyptic Adventure Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah)’ were certainly both great EPs and ‘The Politics of Cruelty’ is undoubtedly an excellent first album for these boys from New York. This is the first that many will have heard from GFJD and despite songs being a little too similar sometimes, fans of modern punk, and especially hardcore, will love this.