By: Si Forster
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Released on June 24, 2016 via Washington Square
A Little Death feels like it’s been a long time coming. My Jerusalem’s career path to date has been a busy one, from a collective formed from time spent in The Gutter Twins (with three original key members now forming the renewed Afghan Whigs’ backbone), but years spent settling on a fixed lineup and perfecting their identity onstage has paid off well, culminating in a third album of assured clarity and craft.
From the off, it’s clear that this new record is a huge step onwards from the transitional Preachers. Where My Jerusalem’s previous two albums delighted in their scattergun, keep-‘em-guessing approach and inclusive delight in as many of their vast catalogue of influences that forty minutes a pop will allow, A Liitle Death is focused and very, very sharp. This isn’t to say that it’s in any way single-minded though, as spinning through the songs revels all manner of joys and slightly familiar celebrations. This cements My Jerusalem’s lofty position of managing to sound not quite like anything you’ve heard before, for the reason that they sound like pretty much everyone you’ve heard before all at the same time, blended and enhanced for your listening pleasure.
I suppose the biggest overarching vibe that can be gleaned from A Little Death is a Spectorish Wall of Sound that lends the affair a timeless, outlaw pop element to proceedings which is embellished with all manner of fun stuff everywhere you choose to look. Fellow Austinites Shearwater spring up here and there in manners spiritual, sonic and physical (Thor Harris’ marimba workout during ‘Rabbit Rabbit’ an especial treat), elsewhere there’s sprinklings of Bowie evident in Jeff Klein’s (mostly) calmer than usual delivery and particularly during the Thin White Duke-isms of ‘Jive For Protection’ which also ropes in the rest of the band for a touching tribute. And there’s also a soupcon of the Afghan Whigs in ‘Eyes Like a Diamond Mine’. My personal favourite in all of this is ‘Young and Worthless’, a breathy hymn that casts latter-day Joy Division as extraordinary Twin Peaks soundtrackers, whereas ‘It’s Torture!’ deserves special mention for that rarely-spotted rock phenomenon of including punctuation marks in song titles (the song’s a corker too).
It’s interesting to see where My Jerusalem have taken themselves with this, as there’s plenty for old fans and friends to find familiarity in, but there’s a whole load of other stuff going on that makes A Little Death such an intriguing proposition. Jeff Klein has never shied away from the physical side of his songwriting chops, yet here it’s a much more certain and sensual offering, helped along by the polished grit of the music that accompanies him. This record will almost certainly find a whole new audience while having the added bonus of having their existing crowd happily following them, a rare and joyous thing to do when stepping up.