Album Review: My Jerusalem’s Preachers

My Jerusalem

Preachers

The End Records

Release Date: October 9, 2012

Track Listing

  1. Preachers
  2. Shatter Together
  3. Born in the Belly
  4. Mono
  5. This Time
  6. Death Valley
  7. Devoe
  8. Between Space
  9. Oh Little Sister
  10. Chameleon
  11. I Left My Conscience in You

Personnel

Jeff Klein – vocals

Jon Merz – guitar/keyboards

Michael St. Clair – multi-instrumentalist

Grant Van Amburgh – drums

Geena Spigarelli – bass

Recording three records under his own name, Jeff Klein formed My Jerusalem in New Orleans back in early 2009 with Dave Rosser of the Twilight Sisters, Rick Nelson of the Polyphonic Spree, Ashley Dzerigian of Great Northern, and Cully Symington of Bishop Allen. And initially, the band was conceived as a collective of musicians playing together with Klein being the figurative connective tissue between the members as he was once a recording and touring member of The Twilight Sisters and the Gutter Twins, and because he had recruited each member to back him for a solo tour. So with a great level of familiarity, the band began writing and working on material that wound up on their Without Feathers EP.

  The band made their official debut with a SXSW set that had AOL/Spinner and Apple declaring My Jerusalem buzzworthy, and their first single “Sweet Chariot” was promoted. In light of the fact that Great Northern and Polyphonic Spree had released albums which were critically well regarded some time before, this level of initial buzz and attention may not have been totally surprising. And if anything, it ain’t the first time nor will it be the last time that such a thing occurred. But as a result of such attention, My Jerusalem toured with Ha Mar Superstar and played that October’s CMJ Festival.

  By late 2010, the band released their debut full-length effort, Gone for Good to critical applause including a live session on Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music’s show and love from NPR’s All Songs Considered. Before the band went into the studio with Spoon’s Jim Eno to record the material that became their follow up, Preachers, the band relocated to Austin, TX and there was a lineup change – but with the lineup change created a sense of true, creative collaboration. As guitarist and keyboardist Jon Merz noted in a pre-release interview, Klein came up with song ideas and each band member added their own perspective an ideas.

   Preachers begins with a sequence of eerie and ominously twinkling piano chords that draw an initial comparison to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Red Right Hand” perhaps? – until Klein sings one of the most startling opening lines in recent memory, “This preacher ain’t no pacifist/He’ll give you dirty knees and bloody lip.” From that point on, there’s an immediate sense of hearing something that’s both alien and wholly unfamiliar. Many of the songs on Preachers manages to possess an uncanny attention to detail – most specifically the interior thoughts, observations and feelings of the sort of characters and scenarios that would inhabit the gothic novels of Faulkner and others. “I’ll be your mirror/and we’ll shatter together,” Klein croons on “Shatter Together,” and although it describes the delicate psyche of the narrator’s affection, it also manages to have a heightened seductiveness, as though it were the sexiest pickup line in the world. “Born in the Belly,” is a quite simply a primal howl of pain, rage and obsession that feels both cathartic and unsettling.  “Mono,” starts off a sequence of several delicate songs on the album. In particular “Mono” describes suffering from mono in such a vivid, visceral way that the listener should be itching and scratching uncomfortably from bedsores themselves. But it’s the hook, where Klein croons, “I wanna be the one/who rolls you over,” that seems lovingly patient and sweet. “This Time,” sounds as though it was influenced by Baptist and Methodist hymns, played by the Beatles.  

   What I can say about My Jerusalem’s sophomore effort is that it manages to not just create a the sort of dark, ominous feel of dread and doom similar to that of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here, it manages to do so in a way that feels strangely intimate, and yet momentous and mythic. After repeated plays, the album captures and retains the feel and energy of a band playing these songs at a live show. Preachers along with Lee “Scratch" Perry and the Orb’s The ORBSERVER in the Star House are by far the most fully realized and profoundly unique albums I’ve heard to date this year – and I’ve found myself turning to them repeatedly to them for different reasons. In the case of Preachers, it’s frankly a momentous triumph of an album – an album that roars, croons, swaggers and rolls around in the muck and dirt.