Flood Gallery
Travel on, ol’ Jeffrey Lee. Plush box set of Gun Club 7 inchers, plus extras.

A near-visionary musical alchemist in his time, Jeffrey Lee Pierce emerged from the seething creative stew of early eighties LA punk, a hollerin’ bleach-blonde street corner shaman on a mission to mainline the darker essence of America’s traditional musical forms – most specifically the blues – into the virginal veins of punk rock. The resultant splice of anarchic electrical energy and bad-omen voodoo vibes was compelling, troubling, and quite unique; it almost goes without saying that Pierce received scant recognition for his efforts over much of the course of a depressingly short lifetime.

The long out-of-print 7 inchers lovingly reproduced here provide a broad – if incomplete – timeline of Jeffrey’s decade-plus musical arc. The one-two punch of Sex Beat / Ghost On The Highway for the 1981 debut single is naturally held up as the band’s defining statement, but The Gun Club’s subsequent works – even given the impermanence of their line-ups over the years – proved this to be no flash-in-the-pan. The second album’s Fire Of Love saw Pierce fling gasoline over the Jody Reynolds classic, before driving the feedback-drenched bad vibes full into the red with 1983’s Stooge-like Death Party.

At this point, however, the history becomes disrupted; 1984’s Las Vegas Story album never yielded a single release, 1985 saw Jeffrey operating as a solo artiste, and 1988’s Breaking Hands single from a reconstituted Gun Club line up isn’t, for whatever reason, included here (though we’re compensated with a bonus single of Miami demo cuts). Jeffrey’s literate musicality ensured that he’d never stay confined to any garage punk alcove for long; during this period of the eighties, Pierce would come into his own as a distinctively poetic songwriter and a prodigious lead guitar player; both qualities are evident in 1990’s The Great Divide, which showcases his honey-dripping fingerwork – an inspired collision of Carlos Santana and Tom Verlaine – rather admirably. Pastoral Hide And Seek is a similarly overlooked marvel, the ‘lost’ title track of that year’s album, and the final single Cry To Me – originally a strictly limited pressing – saw Pierce chase his muse further into virtuoso blues guitar territory.

For the evolution that Jeffrey’s music underwent over the years, the demons that drove him remained a constant; the downside of course was thwarted career success, failing health and an early demise in 1996. ‘That level of unrelenting heat and incandescence is simply not survivable’, Henry Rollins points out in the excellent booklet included here; ‘I wouldn’t wish it an anyone’.

Hugh Gulland

Preaching The Blues is available here

Pic by Ed Colver

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