C That My Grave Is Kept Clean - Mustang Jerx (Play Boy Records)
They’ve been described as “sexy blues rock” and who's to argue with that assessment of Mustang Jerx? No strangers to touring outside their home of Japan after forays into Europe and the USA, in early 2014 they’re prepping for a second visit to Australia and they’ll be bringing this, their latest record.
Fans of dirty blues will take to “C That My Grave Is Kept Clean” like flies to dead ‘roo roadkill. It’s energetic with a melodic, steamy groove, thanks in no small part to the adept playing of lady bassist Rika and drummer Mag. Main-man Satoru Takamori brings vocals and sharp-edged slide guitar to the party and is witheringly effective. One reference point might be iconic Aussie band feedtime, without the same steamroller propulsion.
Satoru’s vocals are either in Japanese or buried so deep in the mix that they’re hard to make out - which is not a problem for those with open ears. The odd line is helpfully translated on the minimalist CD insert (“Louisiana swam is muddy water/Everybody’s fucking down in New Orleans” in “She’s Insane”) but you might think (and you’d be right) that the words are somewhat secondary to the sound.
The title track opens the batting and sweeps along so single-mindedly that it’s over before you realise it. It hangs off the switchblade slide. For that matter so does its follow-up, “Ai Ai Ai” that reeks of Rose Tattoo on a sake binge (and that’s meant in a good way.) Mustang Jerx don’t so much boogie as swing and you don’t need a graduation certificate from a high faultin’ academy of music to know the engine room is critical.
And so it goes. There are nine songs on “C That My Grave Is Kept Clean” none of which are Blind Lemon Jefferson covers, and the whole package comes in at under 20 minutes, so Mustang Jerx is a band that likes to say things economically.
Pressed to pick a stand-out, I’d say the rollicking “One-Armed Mary” rings a very loud bell.
It’s reassuring to see Mustang Jerx don’t mind mixing their music with some mild anarchy: There’s a bluesy sound bite called “Intro” halfway through the album and the record ends with a track called “Outro”.
These guys (and girl) are part of a musical exchange program of sorts, with Sydney band Bunt looking after them on their visits to Australia and the same courtesy being extended when the itineraries are reversed. It’s a bit like the way Mach Pelican worked with their Japanese cousins when they were active in Melbourne a few years ago. Aussie and Japanese music scenes are all the richer for it. Catch ‘em on tour Down Under in 2014.