Jesu comes from a uniquely British place; a place of isolation and unspoken utter despair; a place where people wander aimlessly in a haze of unknowing, searching for something not quite there; a place where people bottle all their feelings, their love, their sadness, their anger, their need for one another, for fear of exposing themselves and revealing their individual vulnerability.
It may sound melodramatic but it seems to me it’s at the heart of the British mindset, presumably because our once invincible empire has long since crumbled into dust. Now we’re in a post-industrial age where our city centres are a mix of wastelands, office blocks and long endless streets of chain stores and American fast food “restaurants”. More than ever people don’t know their neighbours, people don’t live near where they work, there’s no shops within walking distance, teenagers gather together on street corners because they have nothing better to do, and because the media tells them it’s what the Black kids do in American ghettos. Technology is divorcing us from the substance of the world around us in the most frightening way.
But anyway… Jesu is the music of Justin K. Broadrick, an apparently timid and reserved fellow from Birmingham. The kind of emotion on display in the music of Jesu is one of muted, almost accepted fundamental despair. Not so much a lament for better times as an attempt to just somehow get by in a world that we cannot change. At least that’s how I hear it. Don’t want to be putting words in Mr. Broadrick’s mouth here. But if I take some words out of his mouth, “Silver’s just another gold, when you’re bitter and you’re old,” then I think you can see what I mean.
Silver is an EP, released between the much revered self-titled album and its follow-up Conqueror. It marks a kind of transition point in the Jesu sound, and also a divide in the band’s listeners, with a vocal few unable to see past the self-titled’s hazy and slow grind to the new cleaner, more overtly melodic sound. Me, I see Jesu a little bit differently, but that’s beside the point, because whichever way you look at it, I love this band more than I ever imagined I would.
The title-track on Silver, which is cleverly titled “Silver”, is a beautiful slow song, drenched in atmosphere, but centred around a clear and simple melody. Broadrick’s lyrics are effective evocations of the mood, not whiny but honest and raw, with the vocals down in the mix as merely a part of the song’s melodic texture. Star goes in an altogether different direction, racing along by Jesu standards, considerably more electronically influenced with its relentless beat. Almost up-beat.
Wolves for me is the highlight of the EP, ultra-slow even by Jesu standards, almost dirge-like, carrying lyrics like “What is this that tells me I am right or wrong?” on a wave of synths and huge crushing guitar chords. Most of Jesu paints a visual image in my head, not always precise, but always there. Wolves makes me think of the colour green for some reason, a really dark green, tinged slightly with brown – a pine forest bathed in twilight on a foggy winter night perhaps… Well whatever, all I know for sure is this song is incredibly wonderful.
The closer Dead Eyes is a stranger affair, using backwards drums and guitar and unintelligible almost choral vocals buried in effects. It all blends together resulting in a slightly psychedelic take on Jesu. Towards the end the song changes pace, and morphs into a simple repeating guitar riff, rather uplifting in fact.
I read somewhere that Jesu’s music is the kind of music you listen to before you jump off a building, which is a slightly exaggerated claim. However, there is a point to it. Jesu is cathartic, and I mean really fucking cathartic. Slow pounding riffs, dreamlike shoegaze production, emotionally raw songs, all anchored around a simple melodic core. Unlike a lot of related bands, these are songs, often with simple pop structures. The music though is anything but light. It’s a strange nexus between melancholy pop, shoegaze and sludge.
I seem to have latched onto Jesu at exactly the right moment in my life, and they seem to have swiftly become one of my favourite bands. It’s like Justin Broadrick can read my mind, and yet, he’s constantly surprising me. I honestly can’t recommend this band enough, and this EP is a great place to start. As a sidenote, if there ever was a band accurately tied to the imagery of their album art, it’s Jesu. Just stunning work from Broadrick and HydraHead’s Aaron Turner.
Oh and I apologise for that heavy handed rant at the top of the review, I tend to get carried away.