It’s been too long since the airwaves have been graced with the hard-hitting layers of old fashioned rock and roll; and I must admit, the music industry has felt a little dismal without it, always reflecting on but never actualizing the hollowed ghost of rock’s classic past. Jim Jones Revue, however, began to fill this void back in 2007 when they recorded their first album together in a mere forty-eight hours. That’s a strong foundation for the true rock spirit Jim Jones embodies. The moment I heard the group I was instantly brought back to Jerry Lee Lewis wreaking havoc on his piano keys during “Great Balls of Fire,” and the lead singer’s voice of JJR is a testament to the old rockers who evolved from Elvis’ seductive warbling. Jim Jones is unique in his vocals – he says more in his static tones than he does in his words; there’s a poetry to his delivery.
JJR does justice to the classic rock genre, but they also fruit something a little new, creating a lush fusion between the forgotten shaking hips of the 1950’s and the moshing bodies of the garage punk scene. It’s been too long since I’ve been moved by the ferocity of a band’s vibrations; they have a radiance that penetrates the soul. When Bob Seger sang of aging rock beauty and a withering rebellion depicted in “Old Time Rock and Roll,” it’s almost as if he were hailing for the birth of Jim Jones Revue.
The traditional rock presence of JJR strikes me first, but it’s their modern take on the genre that pulls me in. “As a matter of fact that’s a matter of fuck” sings Jones in “Fish 2 Fry,” which at first seems like a simple poke at a firm and imposing society, but it’s meaning, intentional or not, goes deeper than this. No rockers of the sixties would say something so vulgar, so candidly brilliant – maybe a punk band, but certainly not the Little Richard types that a large part of JJR relates so closely with. It seems to say I’m sick of the facts I’ve been fed since birth, and I don’t feel they’re right. It’s the band’s own version of picket signs that bash the one percent on Wall Street – society has driven its followers to the limits, and like a rubber band hungry for retraction it’s on the verge of snapping back. When Elvis and his influences challenged the airwaves with lines about hound dogs and Long Tall Sallies, they were redefining the comfort limits of society. Now that these remarks have become relatively standard to our era, JJR looks for ways to push against the limits once again.
The essence of JJR not only recalls a faded glory of rebellious drug abusers and long haired guitar players unleashing short but ferocious melodies, it marks the beginning of a new wave in the message the old time rockers were striving to engrain. JJR’s track “Princess and the Frog” off their self-titled album reminds me of a time that I never experienced, but feel like I’ve lived through a thousand times: parents, teachers, and every one between forty five and sixty have been telling me tales of breathtaking concerts, wild women and floor shaking guitars that made you dance for days. I may never be able to live those wonder days myself, but JJR makes me a little more content with living in the present.
Herve Coutin, a photographer based in Paris, has a glowing genius about his work – he manages to capture moments in black and white that could easily be from one of the earliest Woodstock festivals, while his color photos bring the viewer back into the present concert environment. Below are some of Mr. Coutin’s own portraits of JJR, displaying their pure energy without motion.