My Jerusalem – Preachers (The End Records / September 19 2012)
By Tim Marshall
Although Preachers is technically My Jerusalem’s second record, singer songwriter Jeff Klein is the only remaining member, so it has the feel of a debut. The band are completed by guitarist/keyboardist Jon Merz, multi-instrumentalist Michael St. Clair, drummer Grant Van Amburgh and bassist Geena Spigarell who work through the genre gears of hard rock, country rock and blues. The best instrument of all though is Klein’s voice which shifts from a menacing, gravelly growl to mournful melody and catatonic shrieking.
Musically, Preachers is not the most original of albums, heavily influenced by great Americana bands of the past (The Doors, Bruce Springsteen and Lynrd Skynrd) but also contemporaries such as We are Augustines and The Black Heart Procession, particularly in the eponymous opening track. Perhaps conscious of this need to avoid being seen as derivative, Klein came up with the creative label for My Jersualem – ‘post-modern Southern gothic soul’. And Preachers certainly sounds like it was recorded in a crypt of a church in the deep south.
Originally from New Orleans the band are now based in Texas and channel the vast open spaces of the American road into their music. Think men with long hair and aviators on Harley Davidsons roaring through the Arizona desert by day and then mournfully drinking whisky in empty dive bars by night.
This is captured on second track ‘Shatter Together’ which opens with a devastating low bass line and Klein huskily intoning “dynamite slips out on the floor, we start to sweat like never before” with ice-cold piano chords and guitar solos. ‘Born in the Belly’ is a riff-heavy rock belter followed by ‘Mono’, a great lo-fi track evocative of watching the sun rise from the back of a car after staying up all night. The only bum note on the album is that the atmosphere created by the first four tracks is then abruptly broken by forced plodding 4/4 folk jollity of ‘This Time’ but returns to form with the thunderous drums and screaming vocals in ‘Death Valley’.
The second half of the album has a nice mix of light and shade, the dark introspection of ‘Devo’ and ‘Between Space’ balanced by the beautifully languid ‘Chameleon’ which is reminiscent of the best parts of The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty with its country inflected guitars. The final track ‘I Left My Conscience in You’ distills all the good things about the album in six minutes. It starts with Klein singing softly over an acoustic guitar before the piano and strings come in and then builds into a swirling Led Zeppelin esque breakdown.
Preachers is a not quite a great record but a very good one, one of the finest rock albums to come of the US this year.