The Gun Club • Fire of Love [CD, LP]

When Blixa Sounds reissued Miami late last year, I thought to myself, “Now if they could just put out THE GUN CLUB’s Fire of Love, that would kick ass.” Well, they have and it does. Despite being very won over by their sophomore release upon re-release (my review is here), it was and is their 1981 debut that really cemented Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s place in the L.A. punk rock hall of fame – and on my own Desert Island Discs list. First released on Slash Records’ Ruby label, Fire of Love was a psychobilly/blues/punk hybrid that fit equally into all three of those subgenres and yet practically requires a category of its own. (Apparently some purists don’t think it belongs in “punk” at all, but I don’t know where else you’d put it.)

If there’s anything that demotes this album to less-than-essential (and that’s barely), it would probably be Pierce’s sometimes racist lyrics. I don’t think recounting the contexts in which he uses the “n word” would get him off the hook. And I’m not even sure you can make an argument like “it’s not Pierce, it’s the narrator who is racist,” since the singer/lyricist inhabits that role so solidly and uniquely that you can’t really separate him from him. So, forty years later, Fire of Love is still so goddamned good that I just try not to cringe too much when JLP goes down that road. Most of the time the lyrics and music are so good, so evocative of something very outside of and different from what you’d expect a middle class guy from Southern California to come up with, that it’s not hard to do. “Sex Beat,” “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” “For the Love of Ivy” – their punky gothic vibe comes through loud and clear. The band’s guitar, bass and drums form an incinerator that just burns, pushing Pierce’s vocals up into the air like a brushfire out of control. Whether you like your indie rock on the bluesy side, on the Cramps-y side, or sunny side down, The Gun Club’s Fire of Love does not disappoint.

Blixa Sounds’ new reissue is a 2CD or 2LP set that gives you the original 11-track album on one disc and an unreleased live show (recorded in ’81 at L.A.’s Club 88) on the other. There are also a dozen demos and alternate takes (which appear on disc one of the CD version and as downloads in the vinyl set), and they’re nearly as good as the album itself. In fact, you get the title track as an alternate take, since it didn’t actually make the album and was held over (in a different recording) for Miami in 1982. Sound-wise, this CD reissue sounds quite good, perhaps a bit meatier than Slash’s CD version. My vinyl copy is not an original on Ruby/Slash but Porterhouse’s 2014 “prime” cut (which is better than the previous copy I had on Spain’s Munster Records) (and may be better than the original Ruby vinyl I had once upon a time) – I don’t have the new vinyl to give you that score. But I can tell you this: you should own this album, whether on vinyl or CD (and why not both?!), so you oughta give Fire of Love a spin while it’s still fresh on your mind. Not that it will ever go stale, mind you… – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 874, 2021)

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