Blues and country music has always had a gothic younger sibling, the wild and restless member of the family that you can hear in things like Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks, the melancholic atmosphere of The Handsome Family’s Southern bleakness and more recently in the apocalyptic blues of the likes of Nero Kane’s haunted soundscapes. It may be a small niche but it has always been there. The real charm of what Mr Johnny Ba$h does is that he takes that vibe and turns it into charging, dancefloor anthems, rabble-rousing calls to alternative arms.
Trial alerted me to his subversive genius, a short, sharp and shockingly poignant piece and Exposure Therapy is an even more concise and to-the-point blast of gothic-hip-hop-country…if there is even such a thing. Actually, if there wasn’t before, there is now!
It sets off like The Sisters of Mercy, all cavernous electronic beats and the sort of basslines that sound as if the military have got hold of them and weaponised the bottom end. And then the turnaround moment comes with the arrival of the vocal component, the voice sitting somewhere between a Johnny Cash (hence the cunningly pun-ish name, I guess) tribute act and an undead Elvis with unfinished business with the music industry. Thangyoo Verah Mush! (As he might say!)
And across the mere 47 seconds of this sonic salvo, the words, all ten lines of them (depending on where you put the commas…but that is just semantics, although being anti-semantic these days can get you into a lot of hot water) feel as if they are setting you up for a joke, in the form of the rhyming couplet that acts as the songs full-stop…sorry, that’s a period, for our American readers.
It’s big, it’s bleak, it’s pounding and, depending on how you read it, either deep, poignant, heartfelt and personal or a bit of a laugh. Though I don’t doubt that it could be both at the same time, black humour being prevalent in both the best gothic bands and the most articulate country creations.
So who is this for? The discerning that’s who. Your average goth will find it too subversive, too unresolved, the mainstream country fan too dark and underground, and the dance community too bleak…plus they would need the 12-inch remix version to add about another six minutes of music before it would even make sense to them. But I’m sure that there are people who sit on the fringes of such scenes, and others, that will get what it is all about – musical trauma administered by a blunt creative instrument – and those are my sort of people.
If you play someone a Mr Johnny Ba$h creation and their eyes don’t light up and their brain goes into overdrive, I suspect that you are hanging out with the wrong people. Maybe it is time to do something about that.