My Jerusalem, Preachers
More than anything else, it was singer/guitarist Jeff Klein’s voice that first sucked me into Preachers, the new full-length from Austin band My Jerusalem. The guy rumbles and moans like he’s stolen and swallowed up all the best parts of those deep-voiced singers I like so damn much — he’s equal parts Eric Bachmann, Johnny Cash, and Nick Cave, and yet inside him somehow it all comes out different, unique. Klein’s vocals are dark and murky and soulful, at times tinged with a country-boy twang (“Death Valley”) and at others sounding like a disaffected folksinger more than anything else (“Chameleon”), and yeah, they’re pretty great.
Of course, few bands can get by on the strength of vocals alone, and My Jerusalem’s no exception; great as he is here, Klein alone couldn’t pull this off. Which is fine, because his multi-instrumentalist bandmates Jon Merz (guitars/keys/horns), Michael St. Clair (violin/keys/horns), Grant Van Amburgh (drums), and Geena Spigarelli (bass) ably step in to add flesh to the bones.
They weave together a fabric of Out West-sounding rock that’s both desperate and downtrodden, like some film-noir story set out in the desert somewhere neat the California/Arizona border. There’s a similarity to Murder By Death, to my ears, as well as a Decemberists-ish “ensemble” thing that makes it all come off a bit like a radio play or stage performance (which isn’t a bad thing, at least not to me).
At first the Nick Cave comparisons seem the most apt, with the piano and darkly-imagined boogie sound of “Preachers,” but My Jerusalem quickly morph into something resembling the Afghan Whigs with “Shatter Together,” all low-slung, droning guitars and sinister vibe. More out-and-out rock (albeit with an oddly ’50s-ish tinge to it), “Born In The Belly” is snarling and scraping, with moments that make me think of Dax Riggs, but then there’s “Mono,” gentle and pretty, which I think is a heartfelt ode to rolling a bedridden loved one over so they, um, don’t get bed sores. (Again, I think.)
Then there’s the jaunty, old-school country ramble of “This Time,” which channels the aforementioned Man In Black and Hank Williams, Sr., and the tense, bleak terror of “Death Valley,” which roars above to become one of the best tracks on here. A little further on, “Oh Little Sister” gives us a bit of a breather, with a sweet, bouncy pop anthem worthy of The Strokes, but the band quickly steps back into character with the quiet solemnity of “Chameleon” before ending with “I Left My Conscience In You,” which drifts through Ryan Adams territory ’til the end, when it explodes into gloriously messy, sprawling noise.
Taken all together, Preachers is a dark-yet-vibrant ride through the twilight, headed on down the highway to somewhere you can’t quite see but which could very well be a grim, bitter end. So why not sit back and enjoy the drive, right?