July 23, 2024

Jah Wobble – ‘A Brief History Of Now’ – “vibrantly vibrating, echoey drummed, psycho-driving chorus, dry and darkly worded songs”

CLEOPATRA RECORDS 4th August 2023

It’s been a little while since Jah Wobble has broken new ground. At one point, having staggered through the borders of world music and experimental pop after ditching Public Image Limited, Wobble specialised in genre-hopping, turning out dubby bass tied to Chinese, Laotian, Japanese, Mahgrebi musics. Or sometimes turning out adaptations of William Blake or Irish poets. Lately he’s seemed more settled and, whilst clearly enjoying himself, album releases have not always felt as inspired or unified in vision. A recent invitation to reinterpret Metal Box may have been the prompt to make some new post-punk and has resulted in a thoroughly rewarding and cohesive collection.

Just listen to the cavernous bass on the instrumental ‘SOO 135’, throbbing along with driving sax and guitar punches. The sound is definitively post-punk but the ideas are uniquely Wobble, the feelings and ideas his alone. And the bass – the bass is his sound, identifiable from the start, his bass (as he puts it) the apex predator of the musical jungle. ‘I am, I am, I am’ is philosophical, drawing on his Buddhist worldview as he floats through Tescos, being himself in himself, the being before effect. He not only manages to sing successfully (not always the case) but he also drops in the odd clattering dub effect.

Smashing up movie images and snapshots from visits, ‘Last Exit’ opens the album in fabulous style, driving forward in best post-punk fashion with Wobble’s East Lahndan spoken vocals commenting between the sung chorus: “glorious esoterica, this is America”. ‘Wrong Side Of The Line’ is not only a pounding track but digs sharply into money worship while sounding like one of The Sweeney has wandered into the studio.

A key part of the sound is Jon Klein. Jah Wobble has worked with him on a number of projects recently, including an ongoing community group in London. He played guitar in Siouxsie and the Banshees for a trio of albums and has made a living in other parts of music since. His sensibility seems to bring out a different energy that pulls John (John Wardle is Jah’s birth name). It might well have been him that suggested a cover of Wire’s ‘I Am The Fly’, a statement of intent as well as a marker for spikey sound. Sharp guitar takes the place of the punchy sax heard elsewhere on much of the set. ‘Driving’ is pounding, saxy pop-punk of the sort where Wobble’s bass gets less distinctive but combines a nostalgia trip with the fun of the new.

Master Of Time’ is sardonic, sarcastic and the flipside to John’s loving warm Buddhist nature. His other face and it’s a darkly funny one. A keen sense of injustice and class war runs alongside the acceptance of the nature of things. It’s drivingly aggressive with sharp, grinding guitar and pronounced rock-solid bass. ‘80 Beats Per Minute’ is the sort of instant creation Wobble sometimes cooks up at gigs – start with the bass and add the other components till you have something fun. In this case it includes choppy guitar, occasionally recalling Keith Levene but also the spikey sound of bands like Magazine (and of course Siouxsie). Signing off with ‘Socially Functioning Psychopath’ is a smart move. Leave them wanting more; and the vibrantly vibrating, echoey drummed, psycho-driving chorus, dryly dark lyric-ed song does just that.

This is a welcome refresh to Wobble’s catalogue, hopefully heralding another era of genre-jumping, cult hero reinforcement. He is unique, he is a British music legend, he’s a genuinely nice man and he can be either a nasty basket or a Boddisatva in his songs. Give this a go, whether new to the world of Wobble or an old lag.

Let’s leave the last word to John, always an enthusiastic raconteur: “It’s all about the dopamine rush. Assault on the senses. Bang! bang! bang! Rush after rush after rush. But never satisfied. No satisfaction. Never any conclusion. Always moving. Appearances arising. Ephemeral. Lacking substance. But often so beautiful and exciting. Glorious esoterica.”

 

Ross McGibbon

 

See our interview here:

Jah WobbleAll about Metal Box Rebuilt In Dub

 

or another album review here;

Jah Wobble – ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ – Post-punk icon is still changing, still growing

 

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