Jonathan Fire Eater
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Jonathan Fire Eater , 6.5/10
Wolf Songs For Lambs , 6/10
Walkmen: Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone (2002), 6/10
Walkmen: Bows & Arrows (2004), 5.5/10
Walkmen: A Hundred Miles Off (2006), 5/10
Walkmen: Pussy Cats (2006), 3/10
Walkmen: You And Me (2008) , 6.5/10
Walkmen: Lisbon (2010) , 6/10
Walkmen: Heaven (2012), 5.5/10

Jonathan Fire Eater are a quintet from Washington (keyboardist Walter Martin, vocalist Stewart Lupton and guitarist Paul Maroon, drummer Matt Barrick, bassist Tom Frank) that relocated to New York in 1995 and soon emerged out of the same rhythm'n'blues scene (Rolling Stones + Stooges + Birthday Party) infected by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Chrome Cranks.

The album Jonathan Fire Eater (Third World Underground, 1995) and especially the EP Jonathan Fire Eater (PCP, 1995), with The Cakewalk Of Crime and The Public Hanging Of A Movie Star, established their reputation. The five-song mini-album Tremble Under Boomlights (Medicine, 1996) added at least The Search For Cherry Red and Give Me Daughters to their canon. Unfortunately, the album Wolf Songs For Lambs (Dreamworks, 1997) failed to stand up to that standard (except for When The Curtain Calls For You). The emphatic vocalist (a Nick Cave clone) broke up with the rest of the band and formed the Child Ballads.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da John Politico)

Jonathan Fire Eater sono un quintetto da Washington(tastierista Walter Martin, voce Stewart Lupton,chitarrista Paul Maroon, batterista Matt Barrick e bassista Tom Frank) che dislocarono a New York nel 1995 e presto emersero nella medesima scena rhythm'n'blues(Rolling Stones+Stooges+ Birthday Party) "infettati" da Jon Spencer Blues Explosion e Chrome Cranks.

L'album Jonathan Fire Eater (Third World Underground, 1995) e specialmente L'EP Jonathan Fire Eater (PCP, 1995), con The Cakewalk Of Crime e The Public Hanging Of A Movie Star, gli valsero una certa reputazione.Il mini-album successivo,composto da cinque canzoni, Tremble Under Boomlights (Medicine, 1996) aggiunse The Search For Cherry Red e Give Me Daughters al loro repertorio.Sfortunatamente l'album Wolf Songs For Lambs (Dreamworks, 1997) non riusci' a ripetersi a quegli standard (eccezion fatta per When The Curtain Calls For You).

L'enfantico cantante(un clone di Nick Cave) rompe con il resto del gruppo per formare i Child Ballads.

Jonathan Fire Eater eventually dissolved but three members (Keyboardist Walter Martin, drummer Matt Barrick, guitarist Paul Maroon) joined forces with singer Hamilton Leithauser to form the Walkmen. On their debut EP, The Walkmen (StarTime International, 2000), the singer impersonates a cross between U2's Bono and the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, while the music is steeped in grass-roots rock (Wake Up, We've Been Had, The Crimps).
The sound on Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone (Star Time, 2002), emphasizing distorted keyboards and rhythm, is a dead ringer for the (old) new wave. The overall tone is intellectual and bordering on existential. The touching atmospheric piano ballad Stop Talking, the neurotic Roll Down The Line and the disjointed I'm Never Bored are emblematic of the emphasis on psychological instrumental settings. Manic strumming is coupled with fervid crooning in They're Winning. The six-minute It Should Take A While sounds like a Freudian trip inside one's unconscious. The U2 influence is still strong on Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, but mostly the Walkmen prefer a humble, colloquial tone. The songs, though, tend to be too verbose: this is a band that wants to tell you a story, not play some music. The music is a mere accessory to draw your attention.

Bows & Arrows (Record Collection, 2004) is an adult work that uses music to deliver stories and meditations, and not so much to entertain. There are relatively few rousing moments (the hard-rocking The Rat, the pounding My Old Man). On the contrary, the mood can be as subdued as in the organ-driven litany What's In It For Me and the melancholy piano elegy Hang On Siobhan. Inevitably the band ends up evoking the pillars of rock populism: the anthemic and Bob Dylan-esque 138th Street, the passionate Bruce Springsteen-ian sermon The North Pole, the galloping U2-esque hymn Thinking Of A Dream I Had.

The Walkmen's subsequent album, A Hundred Miles Off (2006), was more derivative of the classics of grass-roots rock, despite its Latin overtones. Pussy Cats (Record Collection, 2006) was even worse: a remake of Harry Nilsson and John Lennon's album Pussy Cats (1974).

You And Me (2008), instead, marked a return to form with their most evocative and introspective (if not original) material yet. It is probably the most melodic collection of their career, thanks to the romantic Mexican fanfare Red Moon, the calm country-rock meditation On The Water, the waltzing nostalgic Seven Years Of Holidays, and the usual U2-esque threnody, The Blue Route. The band has relearned how to attach movement to a story. Sometimes it happens outside the classic genres, coining a nervous hybrid of noise-rock and acid-rock (Postcards From Tiny Islands and Four Provinces). The soaring invocation of In the New Year mixes Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart on similar shaky foundations. Overall, this is their most musical album yet.

The Walkmen's academic folk-rock offered a "lite" version of itself on the best songs of Lisbon (Fat Possum, 2010), ostensibly inspired by the sound of vintage rockabilly. At the same time a handful of these songs experimented with structure in a way that the Walkmen had never done: the explosive "Angela Surf City", the Caribbean-tinged "Woe is Me", the mariachi-tinged "Stranded," and especially "Blue as Your Blood", that evolves like a tidal-wave crescendo via a trotting musichall rhythm, desolate Leonard Cohen-esque crooning and a synth-strings build-up. While not as profound as You And Me (2008), this album is actually more creative from a purely musical point of view.

The retro-nostalgic tendency overflows on Heaven (Fat Possum, 2012) from the romantic, agonizing Leonard Cohen-esque Southern Heart and the dark Doors-ian The Witch, that belong to the 1960s, to the intimate lullaby We Can't Be Beat and the slow dance No One Ever Sleeps that both evoke the 1950s. The album wakes up with the jangling and propulsive Heaven U2 but it keeps sinking and drowning in songs like the majestically spare hymn of Line By Line.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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