My Jerusalem

Preachers

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For their second album, Austin's My Jerusalem have coalesced into a formally constituted band rather than a temporary group of musicians gathered in service to singer/songwriter Jeff Klein's muse. And they do sound good: Morse-code twin guitars offer a unique counterpoint to the classic-sounding octave harmonies on "Shatter Together," and the swaying, bluesy 6/8 groove behind "Born in the Belly" very capably manages that always-elusive balance between tightness and swing; not many bands can do that. As a lyricist, you've got to give Klein his props: it's one thing to write a song about mononucleosis, and another to get unflinchingly clinical about its effects ("bedsores make you twist" -- he doesn't like terminal consonants very much). And it's still another thing to invest the song's melodic hook with the tender line "I want to be the one who rolls you over." That kind of creative acuity is enough to forgive a tired couplet like "Under a blood-red sky/Under a pumpkin moon." As a singer, he's a curiosity. At times Klein seems to be wanting to sound like Nick Cave ("Preachers," "Death Valley"), at others he channels David Bowie (the honky-tonky "This Time"). And he has a tendency to launch into a throaty, scratchy scream that distracts from his songs more than it adds to them. (Also, what's with the '60s-sitcom horn section on "Oh, Little Sister"?) But despite the affectations and the self-conscious weirdness, there are plenty of deeply rewarding moments on this album.

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