Kim Salmon & Spencer P Jones
The pairing of two erstwhile Beasts of Bourbon makes for an
album that’s as scruffy and filthy as you’d expect, but also
surprisingly mature in places. Most of all it stays true to its makers,
finds SAMUEL J FELL.
Beasts of Bourbon are a longtime favourite band of mine, one who helped
shape my rock ‘n’ roll outlook and taught me that you don’t have to
colour within the lines. That it’s OK to stray, explore, antagonise.
It’s both poignant and interesting, then, to listen to Runaways from two
Beasts alumni, a couple of this country’s more notorious protagonists.
It’s poignant in that the record is being released so close to a Beasts
reformation, and interesting to see where these two are after almost a
lifetime of numerous variations on a theme, compared with where they
were on The Axeman’s Jazz.
To be honest, where they are is in the same neighbourhood. Perhaps even the same sharehouse. Runaways
is a gloriously fucked-up example of the same kind of
middle-finger-in-the-air, pile-of-cans-by-the-drum-kit rock ‘n’ roll the
Beasts made their own back in 1983. Perhaps it’s not quite as
alcohol-fuelled, but it’s a stark, naked look at how Salmon and Jones
haven’t moved on from that form in this instance. At the same time, it’s
also a look at their refusal to do anything but what they want, how
they want to do it, when they want it done by. And as a result, Runaways is a triumph. A scruffy, filthy triumph.
One of three projects Salmon has been working on recently, this was
the last one to begin and the first to be released. Along with drummer
Mike Stranges (no bass player), Salmon and Jones set up camp in
Incubator Studios and got down to business. As Salmon wrote on his blog
last year: “I can truly say that this is an honest recording of a couple
of rock ‘n’ roll musos in their mid-50s. It’s a consequence of their
lives lived! It’s brought it home to me that one can never really be
prepared, so one should just be in the moment and do one’s best.”
So Runaways is a rock ‘n’ roll record, through and through.
From the Jon Spencer-like urgency of the Gun Club-derived ‘I Asked for
Water’ to the drunken sleaze of Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?’
(where Salmon waxes lyrical about his first gig, in a strip club, and
Jones describes the aftermath of a party where he wakes up on a couch to
find his penis in another man’s mouth), it’s an album that spills over
you like the amber ale from a spilt schooner, staggering around like an
’80s rock pig after 10 of the same.
Then there’s a slight deviation from the mean – not so much sonically
but in terms of song choice, for the title track is indeed Kanye West’s
‘Runaway’. What possessed the pair to dig this one up is beyond me, but
what they do to it is bend it over and … well, you get the picture.
Both Salmon and Jones take a turn at rapping the lyrics at one point,
which in itself seals the deal.
Towards the end of the record, things change a little more. Gone,
temporarily, is the thrashy rock abandon. In its place are a few more
considered tracks, like the pair decided they couldn’t get away with an entire
album of their old brand of fuzzed-out jangle. The country/blues of
‘Scorched Earth Pearl’ is like a ray of sunlight post-storm – mandolin
and guitars ride bareback over Stranges’ lethargic beat, and while it
still retains the ‘rock’, it seems to come from a different place. A
more mature place, dare I say.
The slow jangle continues with ‘Underclass’: scruffy harmony vocals, a
definite touch of jazz in some of the guitar playing and, again, a bit
more of that JSBX vibe, like something is about to explode but doesn’t.
Finishing up with the melancholy, country-ish balladry of The Only Ones’
‘The Whole of the Law’, Runaways draws to a close and you’re
left sitting there in stark surprise, like someone just turned on the
lights and caught you masturbating. But you made it, so it’s sort of OK.
Runaways is nothing new, but it’s a record which is exactly
as it should be, given who made it, how they made it, why they made it.
It’s a grubby gem, which, to my mind, is perfect.
All Records packed professionally for post.
Combined postage always available. Postage capped at $15 for any number of albums, Australia Wide.
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