Listen to 'Sex Beat,' the high-water mark of LA's Gun Club

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Yesterday I came across my copy of the first Gun Club album, Fire of Love (Ruby/Slash), from 1981; last year it was reissued by Superior Viaduct. At the time of its release the combo, led by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, was kind of a breath of fresh air in the LA punk scene, creating a kind of roots-injected mayhem marked by Pierce's crude slide-guitar figures and drug-soaked caterwauling, which at times suggested Suicide's Alan Vega without the chronic hiccups. Aside from indelible tunes like "She's Like Heroin to Me" and today's immortal 12 O'Clock Track "Sex Beat," the album hasn't aged particularly well. Too many tracks try to subvert blues gestures in repetitive soft-loud explosions, and the rhythm section doesn't have the skill to pull if off; moreover, Pierce too often confused whelping with meaningful expression. But when the band was on, they were something else. Between the rock 'n' roll poetry of "Sex Beat" lines like "Jake's got a monkeyshine on his head and Debra Ann's got a tiger in her hip" and a potent quasi-tribal thump, the Gun Club was at its best when it wasn't trying to remake the blues. But the best thing about replaying the record was remembering that the Gun Club's other guitarist was Ward Dotson, a guy who went on to make much better music in the Pontiac Brothers and his own band Liquor Giants. Look for those groups to turn up in this location soon. But for now, check out "Sex Beat," below.


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