I remember waiting for Souixsie and The Banshees to play at a festival and being subjected to northern chancers The Farm playing a set looking and sounding like a bunch of construction workers running through bad and uninspiring karaoke tunes after a hard day working with sheet-rock. I mention this to highlight the fact that bands need to come equipped with their own mythology, inhabit a world different from our own, one that is other and elsewhere. If we see them as being just like us then the magic is broken right from the start. I’m not really sure where Judex are from but it sure ain’t from around here.
Judex come at you cloaked in a strange blend of horror b-movie imagery and garage band swagger, punkish attitude and retro-rock resonance, mystique and muscle; in short rock and roll boiled down to its very essence. And like all good rock and roll it feels edgy, dangerous and subversive. And subversion isn’t always about ripping up the rulebook; sometimes it is tearing out the pages and fashioning them into interesting origami or deftly snipping them into puzzling paper chain designs.
Cult of Judex is dark, atmospheric and throws some brooding looks about the room but is also filled with an undercurrent of urgency and walls of sound, pulsing bass lines and killer gang choruses. Such is the bands ability to fashion shade and light, sweet and sour into stark and jarring musical statements. But big songs are not just about making a noise, anyone can do that, the selling point here is the layering of the instrumentation, for even when they are threading together myriad textures and byzantine complexity, there seems to be room for everything to have it’s own moment in the spotlight.
Witchface is a musical shot in the head, a short sharp Gun Club-esque ranting and unrelenting onslaught built of squalling guitars and four-string intricacies, tribal beats and dark thoughts. If occult boogie were indeed a genre Judex would be its leading lights…if it isn’t already a genre then we need to add it to the musical canon and recognise it as one.
It’s the sound of the Jon Spenser Blues Explosion actually imploding, the sound of punk being invented in a Chicago blues club in 1957, a gang fight set to 12 bar rhythms or rock and roll ceasing to evolve beyond Little Richard and instead just getting louder and faster and more intense until space and time are bent around it and the nothing can escape it’s influence.
What makes these two tracks work so well is that they package up a retro-familiarity, a classic sound that tugs at musical memories from a golden age of music and yet goes somewhere new with it, avoids cliché and pastiche but end up with a sound which is so ingrained in the musical psyche that it gives you the feeling that you have been listening to the band since before you can remember.
As debut singles go, it does a lot, not to mention sets a very high benchmark, in a very short space of time. In just over five minutes via this brace of tunes Judex establish themselves as masters of their art, their art being destructive and liberating music but also soulful and intricate, direct yet with depth and the fact that I have waxed lyrical for so long over such a short physical span speaks volumes. If I can write this much about how brutally engaging the band is, just imagine how well the music will serve you time and time again, each play revealing something new and offering up hidden depths that may at first have felt like the usual shallows which rock music tends to inhabit. Music that keeps on giving, now there’s a rare concept.
They are a band who have worked out that the wheel doesn’t need re-inventing, it just needs a clean up, re-treading and some fancy rims then taken out for a spin to leave some indelible and unsightly marks all over the road, possibly invoking an angry letter to the local newspaper from local residents. Buckle up; it is going to be one hell of a ride.