Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Jet Black Factory - Duality/House Blessing
I debated about considering this as a lost classics candidate over at Glorious Noise, but I think that it would have been a little too obscure and, therefore, too much of a nostalgia trip for anyone to really take seriously.
The band in question is Jet Black Factory.
From the underbelly of Nashville, Tennessee, this quartet formed in the mid-80’s and released a pair of interesting e.p.’s and a defining full-length before imploding. Their music was a strangely appealing blend of heavily reverberated guitars fronted by a deep-rooted baritoned vocalist. Think what Bauhaus would have sounded if they grew up in Music City, U.S.A. and attempted to do their own version of The Cult’s Love.
I stumbled across the band via their second e.p., Duality, a six-song gem that served as one of the recurring soundtrack cassettes of an ill-fated spring break trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. I threw together a few newly released e.p.’s that caught my ear prior to the trip and put them all on a Maxell tape for the trip. The band’s brooding Goth rock fit in nicely during the late-night drives through Georgia and, yes, Tennessee.
Plus, one of the songs was appropriately titled “Interstate.”
Vocalist Dave Willie does a good job of bringing just enough fog without sounding too corny. Occasionally, he’ll deliver a pretty good line too. One of the best tracks-“Towards The Sun”-documents a late night insomniac walking the streets (“Now you pace off the darkness…step by step/Towards the sun”), motivated by some unnamed torment. “The song intentionally drags, ever so slightly, giving it both a sinister quality and the appearance of exhaustion.
Nearly every one of the songs is memorable, which, admittedly, should be fairly easy with a six-song e.p. The problem is, this particular e.p. was released on a woefully small record label some twenty years ago and is hard to come buy. As a testament to the band’s impact on me, I kept Jet Black Factory in the back of my head for these two decades. Stumbling around the ITunes store, I typed in the band’s name and was surprised to find that both the elusive e.p. and the full-length (House Blessing) that came after it. I will admit that some of my fondness must have come from all of those years of elusiveness; there’s not a lot of real inventiveness in the arrangements and Willie’s voice is limited in its range. But hearing those songs again did bring back a wave of collegiate emotions and from a non-partisan perspective, they’ve held up fairly well. It would sit nicely along side any one of Peter Murphy’s solo albums from the same time period and, even with all of that reverb keeping things afloat, the production quality may be a tad better.
The band never managed to break out of the Southern club circuit and-to add to the band’s mystique a bit-Jet Black Factory’s rhythm guitarist was convicted of 2nd degree murder in 1991 of a club owner in Alabama. Shortly afterwards, the band hung up their boots and emerged in the daylight to face the harsh reality of the real world.
But for a time, Jet Black Factory was one of the best of those bands fixated with darkness who unfortunately never managed to break out from underground.