A shadowy, blustery night rattles the old stained glass windows of a dark and brooding church, atop a lorn and lonely hill beneath grey broiling clouds that stand out starkly against the crepuscule, tracing their diaphanous tendrils across the face of the glowing moon. Ethereal cobwebs cling to the building’s decrepit frame like rags on a dying man. Tree branches creak and groan in the wind and trail their spidery, searching shadows across the ancient bricks. From within the church comes the haunting sound of an organ, the player seems consumed by madness as he presses the keys during his spiral into insanity. A raven with Cimmerian orbs for eyes and a gaze as pitiless as the midnight sun flutters up to a window ledge to take a disinterested look, its unctuous feathers catch the sheen of the candlelight within and it’s off again, rising up into the pitch night, black on black.
In the dusty, fuliginous church rodents chitter and scurry along skirting boards. Brown dead leaves flutter in through the open doors like macabre confetti at some ghostly wedding, and a lone, shrouded man sits before an organ as candleflames gutter in the draught. An achromatic, hunched figure, with slicked back grey hair and a long black overcoat; he creates thunder storms on the organ with fingers long and gnarled like wizard’s staffs. The church vibrates with the unholy sounds of a player gripped by lunacy as he rocks back and forth, jabbing at the ivories like a man possessed, sometimes throwing his head back and casting a wild-eyed, open-mouthed, twisted expression towards the arched ceiling, before plunging back down into the deep of another ominous overture. A scruffy brown rat scurries across the top of the console but he pays it no mind, lost in his portentous symphony…
…Suddenly the image of the church and the demented player is shattered, by the intrusion of disparate, deep throbbing electronica… Eh what the fuck’s going on here? I shake myself out of my reverie. Some cockney geezer comes on and I think ‘This isn’t Joe Bone!? I’ve been sent the wrong album!’ Just as I’m about to check the download link, a little Glaswegian seeps into the growling voice and it becomes more familiar, plus the electronic beat is overlaid with a crunching guitar and a thrumming bass that I’m more accustomed to as Martin and Davy on the strings. I realise this is the right band, just a very experimental tune, kind of like the direction Bowie used to swerve off into at times. A good start, and the fact it took me by surprise so much just goes to show you can never know what to expect with JB&TDV.
Distinctive bass leads into the next song, Joe’s crooning, sinister vocs, some nice drumming from Jenny Tingle and Sue Nicholson offers haunting backing vocals that further cement the disturbing, eccentric vibe. Some beautifully seedy and wonderfully weird choonage for obscure music lovers who like their albums a little edgy.
Martin makes sure the punk undertones driving the band are never far away with his growling Jean-Jacques Burnel-like bass deliverance. Joe is old school as fuck, an original Teddy Boy style character hailing from the flickblade knives of the Glasgow gang scenes of the fifties and sixties. That historical, cultured, Glaswegian influence seeps into his writing marvellously - the album reflects the grimy streets, the perpetual rain that the buildings wear like a skin and which wash the blood and the Buckfast into the gutters, and the dangerous back alleys and drinking dens of the denizens of the various territories of the city that never sleeps.
The next offering I recognise from the live shows, as an infectious, groovy, soulful piece entitled ‘D.W.P’, a resentful lament on the incompetence of the disparaging Job Centre and D.W.P human cattlemarkets. This is a song that always remains floating through my head after any JB&TDV gig and having it recorded on the album is no exception. A standout track, one that everyone can enjoy and that you’ll be singing the chorus to for hours after listening; in the shower, while making a sandwich, or while burning down a civil service building.
The next track is slightly psychedelic and reminds me a little of Talking Heads too. It has an eerie and nebulous flow to it, lending itself to Joe’s schizophrenic vocs, and with some nice guitar licks.
You can never tell where this record is going to take you; ‘Voodoo Blood’, has a very Doors-influenced sound to it, and I have a flashback to drunkenly staggering up to Jason Smalls while he was reviewing them at the Grand Opry and slurring “It’sh like the Doorsh, The Doorsh, but on meshcaline!” And he quoted me in his review, and I thought the next day, ‘That’s not a very accurate description Chris’, but now I see where I got it from, although I’d say it was more like ketamine than mescaline. A great track live, a great track on the CD, and a slinky, sibilant, susurration of a song, that runs up and down your spine “like the first rising vibes of an acid frenzy”.
The next track (I don’t have the tracklisting to give you the names, the ones I’ve named I remember from the live shows) is an anti-pop song, in that it’s the closest thing to a melancholy indie/pop song you’ll get from this band, but it still has that snotty punk feel and that picaresque, poignant lilt to the vocs as Joe laments ‘I’ve fallen back into my old ways again’. Then it really bites in, as it suddenly corkscrews into a three-chord punk rock assault, yasssss, my punk senses are tingling and lighting up like a Christmas tree as the guitar really slams it home and leaves me with that warm satisfied feeling, like I’ve just been in a mosh pit and had a good ol’ pogo.
Then a kooky little tune with a cool keyboard keeping the rhythm as the guitars clash and the drums crash over it and a skilfully delivered solo carries it into the stratosphere - this is ‘The Bible According to Joe Bone’ (don’t read it alone).
I didn’t even need a drink to do this album review, just the obligatory joint, testament to how good it is. Anyone that asks me (and they often do) who my favourite local bands are, I usually reply with a handful off the top of my head, but that always contains, within its hallowed ranks, the same several names, and a repeated name in that list is Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes. An amazing band I have seen live a good few times now, with their onstage performance they never fail to entice a crowd, they are among the best live acts in Scotland today - and now, they also enrich our CD collections with this wonderful opus ‘Goo Goo Shoom’. And though I usually prefer to go-go shroom, ‘Goo Goo Shoom’ is an alternative trip when the magical fungus isn’t in season.
Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes are a very talented bunch of individuals that come together to form a unique and varied sound, and they go by the names of: Joe (vocs), Sue Nicholson (backing vocs), Davy Irvin (guitar), Martin McCann (punk & bass), Jenny Tingle (skins) and Allan French (keys). A band I always highly recommended live, I now recommend for your living rooms too. Purchase ‘Goo Goo Shoom’ by keeping up to date here https://www.facebook.com/JoeBoneAndTheDarkVibes and I’ll seeya’ in the pit.
CTH (Gonzo Div)