Thursday, 18 July 2013

You think I'm Psycho, don't you mama?

Beasts of Bourbon - The Axeman's Jazz

You don't normally think of the genial Tex Perkins as a figure of dread...or at least I don't. His solo work and sublime vocals with the Cruel Sea are at turns haunting and inviting, and usually a lot of fun.

However, Tex first came to the notice of certain sections of the public at large in the Beasts of Bourbon, a kind of motley crew of players in the Sydney underground rock scene who were determined to be an even more rambunctious and wild band than anything that came before them.

They made records sporadically and their first album, "The Axeman's Jazz", is the stuff of legend. Depending on who you talk to, the recording session was recorded and mixed live to tape with no overdubs, fuelled by over 70 beers, and was done and dusted in two hours - largely because the band members were passing out in a drunken (and god knows what else) stupor. The engineer was paid $100 which he then took up to the (Kings') Cross to score some dope with.

The single "Psycho" from the album was written by Leon Payne, a blind country singer and songwriter from the American south. I don't know if he ever recorded the song himself, but it has been recorded by a number of others, namely Elvis Costello. Elvis' version is utterly tame and not at all threatening. Tex, for the entire recording by the Beasts, sounds like he's about to jump through your stereo and cut you up into little pieces. Indeed, in the video below, he looks every inch the deranged serial killer.

The listener feels a number of conflicting emotions for the protagonist of the song. It is possible to feel both empathetic and horribly repulsed for the character and his depiction of his sordid activities. It is clear that the subject of the song needs help, as he clearly seems not to know why he does some of the things he does. He sounds genuinely troubled by the fact his mother thinks he's a nutcase, and yet, can't seem to control his actions when he becomes enraged.

Tex delivers this with a frightening menace that begs both sympathy and abject fear. It takes a rare charisma as a frontman to deliver that, and Tex nails it. The creepy slide guitar running through the piece adds to the melodrama, cutting a deep dark undercurrent to the music.

Take a listen for yourself below. Let me know what you think.

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