At the risk of sounding like one of those shit memes you get on social media, you know you were a child of the 1980s if the height of excitement was when you got an album out of the library or borrowed it from one of your mates and it fitted on one side of a C90 cassette. If you got another one to go on the other side, frankly that was the holy grail.
As so often – and as that great philosopher of the times Tommy Keifer put it in 1990 – “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and there’s a modern equivalent. These days, there’s a sense of smugness when a record on Spotify lasts an entire car journey, come on, admit it, I am not wrong am I?
Well, thanks to the good folks at “A Bunch Of Jerks” then, for making the nine songs that make up “Shart Topping Hits” 20 minutes long. Or exactly my journey to work if there’s no traffic.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: twenty minutes for nine songs? That’s not a lot! And yeah, I hear you, and I also know that in twenty minutes James LaBrie from Dream Theater hasn’t cleared his throat yet. These jerks, though, they’ve got shit to do.
Back in May last year I reviewed one of their EP’s. “White Girl Wasted”. That was true filth, and if “…Hits” is a little more rounded, it still kind of sounds like Blondie having a knife fight with Chuck Berry (possibly because he’s a massively overrated sex pest, but whatever).
And by the way, I am backing Jerks all the way. Their singer is called Stabby for goodness sake.
Anyway, onto the music. “Light Breaks” does its low slung punk thing, and lavishes melody all over the place (and if you didn’t think this was the type of album to have the words “sickly luminescence” then, you’re very wrong).
“Motherfucker” is suitably primal, “Whiskey Fight” – you assume they’ve had plenty of these over the years – seems to imagine that “Not Fade Away” from The Who was a punk song, and that Blondie thing? Well, they bring it to the fore on “I’m Always Touched By Your Presence, Dear” which sort of sounds like Debbie Harry’s version, but only if she was doing tequila shots and lord knows what else, down some dark alley.
Bat’s bass line underpins “Something For The Pain” (and this band has the best names!) and if you – like me – were expecting a Bon Jovi cover, then this one is more Beki Bondage. “At The End Of A Rope” is catchier and happier than what appears to be a song about a suicide pact has any right to be, and special mention to Mike, who’s lead guitar work is deceptively good throughout.
It’s a feature of ABOJ’s work that the brevity of the songs does not mean they are not fully formed. More that they just aren’t bothered with excess. “I Don’t Cast A Shadow” stomps about like a Banshee, as it were, in two minutes of spoilt brat tantrum, before “Twisting On The Edge” boogies like it’s the end of the world.
Ending with Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” is all the proof you need that these are fans first and foremost, but fans with a skill.
Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe, indeed. The fact is A Bunch Of Jerks are charged up enough for anyone, and if this won’t get on Top Of The Pops then it doesn’t stop it being superb. And just the right length. Length matters, after all.