Monday, April 01, 2013

Hookers for Jesus — ‘Hymns for Beautiful Losers’

Not sure where he got this idea, but Andy asked me to write a press release for the forthcoming Hookers for Jesus EP – their first, and the second in a series of releases which pretty closely matches The Pastels for speed of output (at least, if we are conveniently ignoring soundtracks and collaborations, and comparing singles with albums). The Candy Store Prophets gave their 1999 single Songs for Angels the catalogue number Piss One – Piss being short, somehow, for Pioneer Sounds. That band split up a few years after the single, but two of them – Andy and Graeme – have of late been playing gigs as Hookers for Jesus. As you’ll know, if you’ve been paying attention. Strange, bleak, sometimes hilarious gigs, which for me outstrip the dear departed Prophets because their sensibility is wilder and more pop. So it’s great news that they have an EP ready to go – catalogued as Piss Two – and an EP launch this Saturday at Beat Generator Live!, Dundee. I must admit I was slightly hoping, when this moment arrived, that they might consider S.’s illustration of some garbled lyrics at their first show when putting together the artwork, but it was not to be. That there on the left, though, is the tree that never flew.

EP launch Facebook event page / Hookers for Jesus Facebook

Hookers for Jesus were born under punches: a freezing end-of-month gig above a pub, in a room with black balloons and an untouched cake hinting that the previous event there was a celebration gone wrong. And of course, that fits so well, because Hookers for Jesus are a celebration of the gone wrong. ‘Been on a losing streak longer than I can recall’, goes the closing ‘We Are All Broken People Now’; ‘I’m on my belly, creeping, crawling’. Over a pensive, icy, two-chord backing, swirling in delay and decay. It would be almost true to say that the song is saved from self pity by the bitter pay off line, ‘No matter how bad it gets, I wouldn’t ever ask you for your fucking forgiveness’; except that it isn’t, because it doesn’t want to be saved. The delivery is stone cold, defiant, and the lyric is vague enough to be more about the idea of failure and abasement than any specific instance. It doesn’t say — as Meursault do, for example — ‘I'll be sorry for you if you’ll be sorry for me’. It says, ‘This is mine, keep off’.

And so it is that Hymns for Beautiful Losers, though it is doomed and damned, is pricklier and altogether more fun than the lines quoted above might suggest. There’s a delicious sense of self-mockery to the sampled choir voices which introduce ‘Drifting into Unthank’. The music, as it unfolds, is so opulent, so light on its feet, fizzing with Sci Fi effects and rumbling with kettle drums; snatches of Chinese zither and pizzicato violin burst on the tongue. Its themes are alienation, mortality and underachievement, the whole is just so ludicrously ambitious, it’s one of my favourite pieces of music, and the centrepiece of the EP. It is flanked by two pretty songs, ‘Promised Me Dots’ and ‘On a Night Like This’, the pop song and the ballad of the piece respectively, the latter speculating that ‘Even the angels might have abandoned me’, recalling the title and cover of Andy and Graeme’s previous release as (two of) The Candy Store Prophets — their Songs for Angels 7" single.

Opener ‘Cabaret Song’ has a story to tell, of drugs, sleeping around and the tedium of getting a bus all the way from Scotland to London. Whilst it shares some of the sense which inhabits the other songs here, of time passing, and things getting worse, it is more specific, more immediate:
In a matter of a minute, civilisations rise and fall in your sitting room, beautiful colours explode in the wall, the room was a gallery of breathtaking intensity, that’s when I became frightened.
Overdriven guitar snarls over a chorus of ‘Something’s wrong I’ve fucked my head’, and subsides into woozy synths and lopsided drums for the monologue verses. As it ends, we’re back with entropy: ‘Life sure passes by quick when you’re young and jerking off’. And it goes even more quickly when you’re older and still jerking off. If you’re looking for a record that’s not afraid to say so, without necessarily weeping buckets in commiseration, Songs for Beautiful Losers is the EP for you.

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