I have commented on Jim Carroll before.
He was a fascinating character from New York’s New Wave scene.
His music is both perceptive and attitude filled though sometimes it does not make for comfortable listening.
Read my other comment for some background on Carroll but suffice it to say he wore his heart on his sleeve.
Lyrics aside his music was punk by nature rather than punk by design. In my other comment I said:
It certainly is punk but not the visceral punk of California, or the aggressive "no future" punk of Detroit and Cleveland, or the garage punk of the Midwest (or Brisbane). It is the intellectual punk of New York which is "very New York" and of the time (The Ramones and The Dictators excepted).
New York punk defined the New Wave style as well as laid back punk intellectualism. Even the aggressive and confrontational "No Wave" NYC punk sounds positively high-brow when compared to some kid from the mid-west who can’t string two words together whose only expression is bashing his instrument into oblivion. Accordingly there is as much "beat poetry" and art in NYC punk as there is angst and rage. Think Television, Blondie, Richard Hell, James Chance, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Suicide etc. There is nothing wrong with that and indeed I have named some of my favourite punk acts but it certainly is something specifically New York. If you weren't from New York and you had those punk stylings in you then you gravitated to New York anyway: Richard Hell, The Nails etc.
Unfortunately, today this is what makes the music less "punk" to the kids. Most of the modern punk bands take their musical cues from California hardcore or English first generation punk and then just "pop" the songs up. Very few popular acts look back to the "art" and "beat" punk coming out of New York. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sonic Youth excepted)
This was Carroll’s third and last studio album.
The next 20 or so years were devoted to his first love, poetry, spoken word and various live recordings.
Perhaps, this being his last studio album is understandable. Maybe, he felt he could not use the music medium to express himself any further.
Certainly this album suggests that his material may be drying up. The same themes of the first two albums are explored and even a cover has crept in (albeit a good and apt one).
With Carroll it is, perhaps, the lyrics you remember most, but the music gives weight and emphasis to his words. And that was certainly the position on his first two albums.
Here, though, there have been concessions made to 70s classic rock screeching guitars. Perhaps this was an attempt at making the album a little more commercial but unfortunately it just dates it (a little).
The immediacy and rawness of his first two records (who both had their slick moments) is largely missing here.
That’s not to say this is a bad album, it’s not, but it does sound like something from the mainstream trying to sound new wave which is not what Carroll was about.
The usual Lou Reed (well clearly because he covers “Sweet Jane” here), Patti Smith and Bob Dylan sounds can be heard but also there is some Pretenders, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen in the mix.
None of that is bad.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Love Crimes – (Jim Carroll / Lenny Kaye) – Punchy and unmistakeably New York punk
- (No More) Luxuries – (Jim Carroll / Paul Sanchez) – more straightforward NYC punk.
- Voices – (Jim Carroll) – some synth creeping in. Effective. The song was also used in the teen film "Tuff Turf" (1985) which Carroll also appeared in.
Jill breathes carbon trailing from the bus, it's like
Staring in the eyes of lazarus
She hears the voices
Like a starving whisper no one ever heard
Like an epileptic hummingbird
She hears the voices
Coming from the traffic,
Coming from the cube
Like the cry of babies
Passing through a tube
Voices run inside you
- Sweet Jane – (Lou Reed) – The Lou Reed / Velvet Underground classic is given a full rock interpretation. A magnificent song and a good interpretation by Carroll who understands Lou Reed better than most.
- Hold Back the Dream – (Jim Carroll / Brian Marnell) – Brooding but a little dull.
- Freddy's Store – (Jim Carroll / Paul Sanchez) – This is more like it. Sharp lyrics and a punchy instrumentation – though quite slick with a few 70s classic rock intrusions.
- Black Romance – (Jim Carroll) – so so
- I Write Your Name – (Jim Carroll / Wayne Woods) – all the Carroll stylistic touches, vocally and lyrically, are here.
- Low Rider – (Jim Carroll / Steve Linsley) – could have been better.
- Dance the Night Away – (Jim Carroll / Allen Lanier) – a touch of Tom Waits entering and it works.
Not as good as his other two earlier albums but still worthwhile …. I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where.
- You can hear John Carroll on The Velvet Underground's "Live at Max's Kansas City" (1972) (the first legit rock bootleg LP in history) ordering double Pernods and asking about the availability of Tuinal between songs.