Thursday, 18 December 2014

Album Review - John Knox Sex Club - Oh Wow Must Be The Devil

The latest LP release from John Knox Sex Club, Oh Wow Must Be The Devil,  sees a chaotic and charming return to form since Blud Rins Cauld  (2010) and Raise Ravens  (2011).  Always a welcome force in the Scottish live music scene, fans have waited with breath baited and nerves on 'stretched to breaking' tenterhooks for an album based on the five songs which make up Oh Wow Must Be the Devil.

For a band who set out as a 'live thing', they are doing all they unintentionally can to debunk the myth.  With some special recordings from the past and a short time out before a reformation, this collection of folk/punk dictats, some lengthy in their telling and caustic in delivery, does perfecting shambolism in the way which only JKSC know.

Minotaur  sets the mood with a determined marching drum beat laying the foundations for distorting guitar and increasingly frantic violin, each building the mood and crashing against the now familiar chanting, despairing wonderful vocals we have become accustomed to from Sean Cumming.

Hard Days  is an absolute epic of track.  A wall of sound at the start lulls us into a false sense of security, and the familiar trademark from JKSC will prevail.  However as the vocal less sound builds and then drops completely, we are introduced to a mantra of "hard days to come, there’ll be hard days to come…" painting a bleak backdrop which would fit snugly over any Cormac McCarthy tale.  A haunting violin adds to the uneasiness, and a sense of foreboding ensues as a gothic choral chant and call and response vocal has us desperately anticipating the next part of the journey.  A true derelict gem of a song.

A Song in Sleep
  is a melodic interlude, lyrics nonetheless desolate and uplifting at the same time "barbed wire to stop, stop me jumping."  An engaging lead guitar riff and a soft pleading vocal prepare us nicely for a gradual resolve to distortion and a fadeout mantras musings of both lips and kissing.  And all along the stringed chaos builds in the background.

Animals  is where JKSC are most at home.  This is the trademark sound and wonderful it is too.  With most definite acknowledgements to Scottish counterparts The Twilight Sad and The Phantom Band, this is folk/punk at its absolute peak.  Utterly compelling from start to finish.

Ashes  starts as an offbeat drum experiment where guitar sounds appear to be placed randomly and without direction, and in such perfection too.  The almost traditional folk violin jars against loose structure created, and appears as a lotus flower in a blank landscape.  Again Sean’s vocals are haunting and beautiful and stark and engaging.

The five tracks which make up this offering provide us with a perfect representation of where John Knox Sex Club are today, and also confirms their purpose and 'live' band credentials belie an ability to write and record some wonderful landscapes and tunes.  And today, they are in a very good place.

- Bobby Motherwell

John Knox Sex Club - Oh Wow Must Be The Devil  is out now via Instinctive Racoon and can be downloaded via all good online music retailers or purchased on vinyl here.

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