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When you’re known for being a formidable live band, how do you approach a studio album? Is it an unwelcome distraction from getting up on stage, or a place to stretch your wings and reveal another side to your story? That’s the dilemma that The Jim Jones Revue have faced so far in their career, as they’ve built up a reputation for being one of the most ferocious rock and roll bands around, without really making a massive dent in many people’s record collections.
On The Savage Heart, the band’s third studio LP, Jones and his cohorts have broadened their scope a little, adding to the frenzied blues stomp they’ve become known for with forays into doo-wop ballads and call-and-response hollers. There’s still an over-riding sense that these tracks are waiting to be heard on stage before they can truly take flight, but there’s still plenty here to suggest that The Jim Jones Revue are more than beefed up rock and roll revisionists.
Just like its predecessor, The Savage Heart has been produced by Jim Sclavunos, drummer in Grinderman and The Bad Seeds, and it's fair to say that there’s something of Nick Cave’s savage yelp in Jones’ own vocals. He might not be as verbose as Cave, but there’s a terrific directness to his delivery and a frenzied assuredness that’s all his own. Listen to him let rip on ‘Where Da Money Go?’ and you’d be happy to reveal exactly where it’s all hidden.
That track in particular is pretty textbook Jim Jones Revue, all pounding piano and tight guitar lines, and at least half of the other tracks on The Savage Heart follow a similar path.
It’s when they step off that beaten track that things get really interesting. ‘Chain Gang’ slows things to a sloping, atmospheric sludge, the kind of thing you can imagine being played in a sleazy dive bar as two gangs eye each other up before it all kicks off. ‘Eagle Eye Ball’ meanwhile, wears the influence of Sclavunos most clearly, shaped around a guitar riff that resembles the alarm that tells you your submarine is sinking.
The biggest departure here comes with the album’s closing track, ‘Midnight Oceans & The Savage Heart’, which allows Jones to showcase his more romantic side. As he delivers a Mark Lanegan-esque husky croon over an isolated piano riff and some distant, menacing guitars, you’re once again transported to an imagined film set, this time the glorious reunion of our leads, brought back from the brink and now sailing off into the sunset. Tarantino would have an absolute ball with this stuff.
It’s a nice way to end a record that started in such a ferocious fashion, and it also helps to show that there’s a little more to The Jim Jones Revue than you might have initially expected. It probably is all going to sound a little more raucous and electrifying in the flesh, but this will definitely keep you sated in between those doses delivered in person.