Tuesday, April 18, 2017

J Church - Arbor Vitae LP


Rugger Bugger (1995)

Where to begin with J Church?  I guess I'll start by saying I was never really all that impressed with them way back when.  I had Camels, Spilled Coronas and the Sound of Mariachi Bands and I thought it was OK.  I went to see them play a show at the Pipeline in Newark, NJ and thought they were pretty good.  Over the years I've accumulated about a dozen J Church split 7"s, all bought for the band on the other side of the record.  It's not that I didn't like them, but nothing ever struck me as special and there seemed to be a lot of filler.

Let's not even start on how completely freaking intimidating their discography is.  I don't know if it would ever be possible to track it all down, so I was content just letting them exist in the background.  Then enter my buddy Alan who wanted to learn and play a J Church cover in the pseudo band we mess around with every so often.  He sent me the song "Racked."  Hot damn what a great song and it totally opened my eyes to the possibility that I've been overlooking these guys.

I picked up Arbor Vitae as it's the album with "Racked" on it.  The fact that the vinyl version came out on Rugger Bugger, an all time favorite label, just made it easier to pick up when I was digging around on on Discogs. I can't stress what a great song this is.  Chugging palm mutes in the right places, big catchy chorus and even some harmonics in the very brief guitar solo.  It's just a blast of sugary 1990's pop punk and I love it.  It's the clear highlight on the album, but everything on the record is really strong, especially the A side with "Cigarettes Kill," "Drinking Down" and "Your Shirt" really standing out as killer songs.  

This album is certainly not the sort of thing that would make me try to hunt down the entire J Church catalog.  I know that's a silly idea with my prior experiences with the band, but Arbor Vitae has opened my eyes and I'm certainly up for checking out some more of their albums if anyone out there has recommendations.

J Church - "Racked":

J Church - "Drinking Down":

J Church - "Cigarettes Kill":

1 comment:

  1. From a collecting point of view, I imagine you would be interested in some of the Snuffy Smile releases. "You think you're cool" is an early singles collection, and has interesting packaging, with four separate inlay cards that could all be used as front covers.

    I also own "Seishun Zankoku Monogatari", which is basically a compilation of tracks that appeared on maybe 6 spilt 7"s.

    Of course, there were other releases on Snuffy Smile (both vinyl and on CD), but I don't own em.

    Personally, I always fallback on "Cat Food" which, to quote from the now defunct j-church.com, is "[n]ot quite a 'proper' J Church album, [and] features a mixed bag of seven new tracks, four re-recorded and one - Violent Motions Created - rescued from compilation album obscurity. With a few days off around the time of their Reading Festival performance, much of the album was recorded in a single afternoon at RMS Studios in south London, where the Damned had recorded Machine Gun Etiquette. The session produced all the originals (except Asha Blake), five Electric Light Orchestra covers, of which Turn To Stone appears here, and the re-worked, re-titled (I Want To See) Faye Wong. That song was previously on the split 7" with Discount, where it was recorded to 8-track. The new version was named 'More' simply because it is a fuller recording. My Favorite Place gets its third re-working, this time with additional vocals from Harriet Scott. L.A. and A Well Earned Reputation are harder versions of the tracks from Travels In Hyper-Reality. Harriet additionally sings on The Heroic Trio and Turn To Stone. Manda Rin from Bis is also on those two, as well as All Girl Band and The Versace Killer".

    As you can see, there are a lot of guest female vocals on the record, maybe that is why I like it.

    As far as a "proper album", I love Arbor Vitae, and also "One Mississippi". Yes, at 26 songs and 72 mins it is long, too long really, although I remember reading it was never intended to be listened to in one sitting. Whatever the case, there are some awesome tracks on it.