Review Summary: Dark and jangly smash to the face
Jeffrey Lee Pierce has never been passive in his songwriting. Within the first few seconds of Miami
, we are swept into the destructive, liberating force that is the Gun Club. It has never felt better, and you can compare it to Fire of Love
all you want. The passion remains and Pierce is relentless with his deliberate intonations. “Carry Home” throws us into the stormy fray, while the second track, “Calling Up Thunder”, is a melodic masterpiece. Sure, Miami
gets some flack for being over-produced with Pierce’s vocals overpowering every other aspect of the album, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
As truth has it, Pierce is at his best here - vocally, lyrically, and emotionally. By the time “Brother and Sister” kicks in, you’ll feel on the edge of a heat stroke. The guitars are malicious and the bass groove pounds into your head head like the hot desert sun. A demented “Run Through the Jungle” makes its appearance and the performance is elevated by Pierce's clairvoyant vocal rumbling. Call it acquired taste, but you’d be missing out on this wonderful cover that is - dare I say it - better than the original. Throughout Miami
, the guitars are spot on. Every riff sinks into your primal subconscious, every beat of the drum distorts your worldview, every discordant guitar line highlights Pierce’s disturbed hoots and howls. On “A Devil in the Woods”, he goes all out yelping a delirious vocal line - “How black can an animal be?!”
But there is never any question - we know just how deranged Pierce can get, even in his sentimental moments. Notwithstanding, “Texas Serenade” leans on the uneasy, despite it being the most tender and affectionate effort that the Gun Club had put out to date. And the lyricism, as always, is perfect. Pierce drawls on about a once-triumphant man from the war, a man who had medals, a man now dead, a man who should be respected but might be dishonored. Perhaps it’s a perfect metaphor for himself - a beast or a hero?
Then we hit a rough patch. A dry deserted wasteland, a place where we are left to the elements, left to charm the snake ourselves. This voodoo ritualistic number known as “Watermelon Man” presents itself with a resonant tribal drum line and a deserted guitar drone. It seems we’re in dangerous territory. This is confirmed during the next number, “Bad Indian”. A striking drum line and we are left to the natives. This war dance comes on as a natural tune for the Gun Club line-up. Pierce sure knows how to pick ’em. Ward Dotson has never been more spot on than in “John Hardy”, a re-make of the classic folk tune. But Pierce makes it his own, with fervent, undulating vocals underlining every essential lyric. And “The Fire of Love” burns through the listener, with a wicked riff fulfilling every bad fantasy we can imagine on the deserted outskirts of Texas. This song, albeit short, is a tenacious track. It's subliminal and gives us a bit of resolution, but that's torn down within an instant.
"Sleeping in Blood City” is a gritty account of Pierce taking our innocence in an unpredictable town, under the parking light perhaps - Pierce doesn’t care where we’re going to engage in the distasteful act. He just wants us to know it’s going to happen, with a jarring melodic line accompanying the rape of any innocence we had left after Miami
. Perhaps there is some a settlement at the end. We’re allowed to soar above the cities, above the dirty gutters of rape, along the highways of sadness. But Pierce is tired, and so are we. It has been a tuneful abuse, one that we have played along with during Pierce's euphonic antics. Every good trip must come to an end - Miami
is swampy absolution in disguise.