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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 112 - 11/16/05

White Lord Jesus
White Lord Jesus
Kong Tiki Records


And after 20 years White Lord Jesus resurrected! Meaning the Norwegian duo from the dark side of the 1980s. Originally the album was called Amen! and released 21 years ago exclusively on cassette. It was woted Norway's number one independent cassette release in 1984, at the peak of the home-made cassette movement (anyone who remembers?). I wrote my first review of the album in a fanzine that was published the following year (no strict deadlines in those days...). The easy way would obviously be to translate that old review from Norwegian to English. However, there have been some major changes:
1) The original album included 10 songs. Now there are 16. Five of the additional ones originate from other recordings in 1984-85 and one is brand new.
2) Several tracks have been augmented to some extent with new instruments and vocals. Some of the new contributions are from members of Wholy Martin (of course, who else!) and/or The Colors Turned Red (another resurrected 80s novelty).
3) The entire collection of songs has been remixed.
4) Most important: 21 years have passed...

I remember Amen! as dark and sinister. The duo wanted to provoke, not only concerning the name, also the music and lyrics. To some extent I guess the lyrics were inspired by the young Nick Cave's fascination for the gallant American South, the stage presence by Virgin Prunes (what happened to Gavin Friday b.t.w.?), the arrangements (keyboards, drum machine and vocals) by DAF and a sense for clever catchy pop melodies. By now the album sounds quite innocent and catchy, with some substantial exceptions. "Storm Coming Down" gives warning of what the title indicates, windy, dramatic keyboards, haunting vocals, short sequences from something sounding like the main "Godfather Theme" and an American speaking preacher. "Monsterbody" is the alternative punk-noise shocker with heavy guitar contribution from Bård (by now a member of Norwegian-Swedish Clawfinger for the last 15 years or so), whereas "August Walla I" is the post-modern avant-dadaistic alibi.

On the other hand there are some sweet and beautiful ballads and pop songs with dark lyrics. First and foremost "Song For A DarkGirl", an alternative "Strange Fruit" - the Billie Holiday classic. To quote the WLJ home page: the name White Lord Jesus is taken from the poem "Song For A Dark Girl" by Langston Hughes (1902-1967), known during his life time as "the poet laureate of Harlem". About the man whose lover had been hanged by the Klu-Klux-Klan: "I asked the White Lord Jesus, What's the use of prayer." See? This song was supposed to be released as single in the autumn of 1985 with a real string arrangement and all. Instead the band dissolved. Now finally! "Beautiful Diseases" is another example, a sweet little piano ballad, harsh lyrics. "Mary's Room" and "Back In Mary's Room" are the hummable pop alternatives with often used chord progressions.

In between is the sort of negro spiritual "Jimmie's Got A Goil" with only vocals, piano - and trombone, while "The Fright Train" has a twisted country feel, with steel guitar! The creepy 2005 recording "Wintersong" don't sound very different from the rest of the album. Parts of the song even includes the vintage drum machine that keep the pace throughout the album, the only full proof of the album's 80s origins. Apart from that, the songs sound fresh, original and out of time. Much due to the contrasts between Tristan Christ's tormented and dramatic voice, Tognazzi's keyboard variations that doesn't sound typically 80s as we think of the decade nowadays and several guest musicians that give the songs variation and organic flavours.

The album is a most welcomed dive into the depths of the 1980s underground and a proof that the decade wasn't always pastel coloured. Amen!

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You may also want to check out our White Lord Jesus articles/reviews: ...Into That Good Night, Talk of the devil, a conversation with the Lord.

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