Tag Archives: The Gun Club

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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The Gun Club • Miami [LP, CD]

THE GUN CLUB is primarily remembered for their incendiary debut album, Fire of Love, a psychobilly/roots rock/punk classic that introduced the world to vocalist Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Their sophomore release, Miami, came out in 1982 on Blondie’s Chris Stein’s Animal Records label and has just been reissued by Blixa Sounds.

Continuing in the same vein as their introductory platter, Miami was, in many ways, the quintessential ’80s American indie rock release. With Ward Dotson’s twangy rhythm guitar leading the unadorned but solid bass and drums of Rob Ritter and Terry Graham, The Gun Club’s sound was at the root of two then upcoming indie rock camps: the twangy Americana guitar rock of R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary, et. al., and the cowpunk/voodoo vibe of The Cramps, Tex & The Horseheads and the like. Leader/singer Pierce – “Elvis, Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop all rolled up into one” (says Dotson in a recent interview) – was a big fan of the blues and other American music but wasn’t exactly the greatest candidate for carrying the torch. At least, on paper. But in the studio and on stage, he conjured his influences into a compelling, raw, unschooled vocal style that would make you forget, if indeed you knew, that he was really a “guy that lives with his mom in Reseda” (Dotson again).

That first album, Fire of Love, was one of Slash Records’ earliest releases (on their Ruby subsidiary) and was a good seller for the label. But it wasn’t long before Pierce had burned a lot of bridges, both personal and professional, with his difficult personality and questionable antics. By the time they recorded Miami they had signed to a new record label that was backed by a larger label (Animal was distributed by Chrysalis Records). Unlike the crisp, raw sound of their debut, this album – produced by Stein – has a slightly muffled sound that doesn’t jump out of the speakers quite the way Fire of Love did. Still, its songs flicker and burn in a similar fashion. “Devil in the Woods” and “John Hardy” stand out as tunes that could’ve been on the Slash release, while opener “Carry Home” and the cover of CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle” are less psycho and closer to that generic college radio sound that many of us still have stuck somewhere in our heads. Overall, though, in hindsight Miami is just a notch less-great than its classic predecessor.

Blixa Sounds’ 2CD and 2LP reissues include the original Miami on disc one and that album’s demos on disc two. (The compact disc version adds an additional handful of songs demoed for Miami but eventually released on The Gun Club’s next album, The Las Vegas Story.) The CD package contains interesting liner notes, skeletal credits and only a few small photos (there is no actual booklet included in the six-panel digipak; I’m not sure if you get more in the 2LP configuration), but the sound is punchy despite the subtle high end. Regardless, it’s great to have Miami restored to availability after so many years of obscurity. We may not have Jeffrey Lee Pierce around anymore, but his band/spawn continues on. – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 843, 2020)

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