In Exile compiles the majority of the Gun Club's Mother Juno and Pastoral Hide and Seek albums, and tracks from the mini-album Divinity. There is one bonus track included, the title track for Pastoral Hide and Seek that was never previously released because of an argument about the mix. What these recordings offer is a view of a band that everybody -- in America at least -- had given up on. Given the band's wildly erratic live performances and Jeffrey Lee Pierce's struggles with both heroin and alcohol that led to his premature death in 1996, every track goes against the grain of who they had been and who they were expected to be. Pierce had more than enough creativity and fire in him as a songwriter, and the band had the personnel -- with Romi Mori on bass, Congo Powers back on guitar, and former Cramps drummer Nick Sanderson -- to do anything they wanted. But what was it they wanted to do? On the tracks from Mother Juno, such as "These Breaking Hands," "Lupita Screams," and "Yellow Eyes," there is the influence of the Cocteau Twins, of all bands, with Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde lending production help. The bluesy aspect of the band's former sound remains intact, but they're no longer played with bowl-you-over intensity. Pierce had grown enough as a songwriter to know that that sound had its limits if the Gun Club were to remain a functioning entity. But he couldn't quite become the ballad singer he wanted to be in the context of the Gun Club either. The tension heard in the Mother Juno material, the band's most criminally underappreciated album, bears witness. For Pastoral Hide and Seek, the Gun Club was all over the map. There's the roaring, stormy squall of "The Straits of Love and Hate," with burning, broken chords and burnouts on stun-bass riffs. But there's also the neo-goth country of "I Hear Your Heart Singing," with the most drunken vocal Pierce ever consciously recorded. And then there's the material from Divinity, with its creepy Velvets-like tribute to serial killer Richard Speck and the warped metallic blues of "Black Hole." Every one of these tracks is done with sincerity, and each of them is done with a schizophrenic pathos that pulls in too many directions to properly focus the material. As a collection this works far better, with the material all jammed together, than these tracks did on individual albums. On record they were always good, if not great. Live was another story and they ran to extremes, but even this late they remained one of the most compelling bands to listen to; they'd make you scratch your head one minute and yell, "yeahhhhhhh motherf*cker!!!!!!!," the next. How many bands can you say that about?
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek