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Arts and Entertainment

Last Album Of The Gun Club, Forgotten L.A. Band, Is Released 21 Years After Frontman's Death

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In the annals of L.A. rock music, it's The Gun Club, perhaps, that truly gets buried in the footnotes of history. Maybe it's due to the band's sound, which is a little hard to box in. The term "cowpunk"—meant to denote a hybrid of punk and country—gets tossed around a lot. But mostly, The Gun Club was just loud and messy; their tracks make you want to fiddle with the EQ on your car stereo.

The recently released In My Room, the band's first album in nearly 25 years (and 21 years after the death of their frontman Jeffrey Lee Pierce), takes a different path, however. The tracks here reveal a different side of the erratic Pierce. The guitars are cleaner, and even a bit more elaborate. "L.A. Is Always Real" and "Shame and Pain," for instance, are built on irresistibly catchy riffs. And Pierce's vocals, while still gruff and pain-streaked, have settled into a more contemplative tone. The album is slower, more introspective, and it just sounds polished in the best sense of the word. As explained at Forced Exposure, an independent music distributor, the album wades into new artistic territory for Pierce. "What Jeffrey Lee Pierce exposes here is the highest [level] vocal and guitar performing, from sounds [that] are reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and Television, to truly intimate heartbreaking blues, going through soul and rock," writes the site.

It should also be noted that In My Room is not a gratuitous, cribbed-together, posthumous release built on a collection of unreleased demos. Rather, it's a real album that was recorded in Holland and Belgium between 1991 and 1993. It just never got a proper release until now.

If you're not familiar with The Gun Club, LA Weekly has a nice overview of the band and its relationship with Los Angeles (the city didn't always welcome the band). While The Gun Club has had a number of musicians joining its ranks, the act is mostly the work of the troubled Pierce, who was born in Montebello and had once been president of a Blondie fan club (Deborah Harry was said to be a supporter later on). Through albums such as Miami and Fire of Love, the band would make its mark as one of the rawest acts to come out of Los Angeles.

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Pierce's fate was one for rock n' roll lore. Drug use was constant, and he was drinking himself to death. Mick Harvey, a former member of the Bad Seeds (which Piece had spent some time recording with), said that Piece was at times incoherent: "I suppose he was pretty out of it with drink and drugs and so kind of difficult to communicate with. Most of the time it was difficult to work out what he was talking about. But he was always very nice and very gentlemanly." It is a wonder, then, that Pierce managed an album as focused and well-spoken as In My Room later in his life.

Pierce would die of a brain hemorrhage in 1996.

In My Room is out now. A vinyl edition of the record comes out on May 12. You can find track samples here.