The Gun Club leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce ought to be easy to dismiss as a selfstyled bad boy trying to blackwash over his blonde pout with an authenticating devotion to the blues. Yet his intensity, his guitar work, and his persistence within a rarefied cult all indicate heartfelt commitment, no matter how varied the recorded results. Emerging from the L.A. scene that included X and the Blasters, the Gun Club loaded blues and rockabilly into its punk assault, turning them into some sinister misspawn of Creedence Clearwater Revival. While New York emigres the Cramps whipped the same ingredients into grand slapstick, the early Gun Club maintained a solemn, threatening edge through its death-haunted repertoire. On the debut Fire of Love, Pierce asserts himself with recitative hectoring--he hasn't yet developed the overripe tremolo of his later vocals. Latching onto the tradition of Robert Johnson, who's covered in a hyperventilated rework of "Preaching the Blues", Pierce plunges into themes of sex, death, and salvation; whether fucking under the Christmas tree, buying his own graveyard, or praising a girl who's like heroin ("she cannot miss a vein"), he sounds determined to live up to his "Jack on Fire" line: "Everyday is judgement day". Traces of crypto-racism (references to pursued and dead "niggers") give Fire of Love, with its pumped-up beats and graceful slide guitars, an uncomfortable aftertaste--no doubt what Pierce intended. Part of the intentional--one hopes--irony of these usages is his willful punk plunder of a musical heritage not his own.


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