Return of The Split Lip –  The Judex (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Judex_Cover_1The Judex is less a band, more a collection of contradictions, a whirling mass of opposites that somehow have managed to attract and believe me when I say that they are like few rock bands that have crossed your path, if they had, you would have remembered. The titles of the tracks alone tell you that this is a band which thinks outside the box, if they even recognise the existence of the box in the first place. Titles that indicate perfectly the blend of brains and brawn, wit and wisdom, the profound and the profane, of the bi-polar muse and the fallen angel who fight for control of their songs. Musically the same thing is going on, it is rock from the wrong part of town, succinct enough to appeal to the more discerning rock fraternity but also belligerent enough to want to punch their lights clean out. And apart from that, anything that sounds like Gun Club having a nervous breakdown has got to be worth checking out, right?

These four Philadelphia souls are not here to save rock music, they are here to destroy it, or at least to shake it out of its skinny-jeaned, complicated haired, complacency and to remind it that there was a time before it sold out to the music industry, when it was still dangerous, when it was the bad boy on the musical block, when it stood for defiance, outsiderness and edge. These days the modern rock mascot is a balding 40 year old guy in cargo shorts sporting a Wal-Mart bought Ramones T-shirt at a Foo Fighters concert! Where did it all go wrong?

Kill White Lights is the perfect calling card for the album, a strange blend of The Cramps mutant rockabilly jive and the short-lived HeadGirl’s cover of Please Don’t Touch and addressing some fundamental truths and failings in modern society. It’s a rabble rousing anthem to what we now have to call “being woke” which is the current fashionista slang for reading a newspaper, watching a decent current affairs program and waking up to what is really going on outside your door. A call to arms to a groovy tribal swamp-blues beat. Nice.

DEXY1Even when they are mellowing things out, such as on Jaguar Baby, which, compared to the rest of the album is almost a ballad, they still manage to construct it from angular rock riffs, jagged edges and howling vocals. Everything is relative I guess. It may seem almost like their most conventional song, building from fairly expected edgy blues-rock into squalling musical crescendos, but it is still a song most of the competition would kill to have as their lead track on their own album.

Between these extremes they run from the sublime to the ridiculously good and back again. Wicked Pony Stomp returns us to their trade-mark psyched-out heavy blues, matching musical mayhem with vocal mania, relentless beats with an impending sense of doom, opening salvo War on Fake Psychics sounds like someone re-inventing rockabilly  at CBGB’s in the spring of ’76 and Thermostat Queen is a claustrophobic and intense collection of apocalyptic grooves and riffs. 

The Judex are essentially a band out of time and genre, a blend of dark country rock and roll and disfigured heavy blues, a post-punk ethos and a post-genre attitude all of which met each other in the desert, fought and bloodied each other, and decided to stay together. This is hardcore snake-charming music, evil, smoky, brash, and libidinally uttered. The future may be looking bright but that may just be the initial flash of the bombs hitting the ground.


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