John the Conqueror – S/T
They came, they saw, they conquered
Artist: John the Conqueror
Record Title: S/T
Label: Alive Naturalsound Records (Alive Naturalsound 0136-1)
Genre: Rock/Blues Rock
Format: LP (purple vinyl, 33 RPM)
Release Year: 2012
Grade: Music: A- / Package: B+
The striking photo which adorns the cover of John the Conqueror’s debut LP – three dudes captured in profile, cigarettes dangling either from hand or mouth – could be the visual definition of “badass,” and in this case, you can actually judge a record by its cover. This relatively new blues rock power trio do some serious damage over the course of this album’s ten soulful songs, which are fueled by equal amounts of grit and groove. The White Stripes and The Black Keys have certainly increased the visibility of stripped down, blues based rock music in recent years, and John the Conqueror (they’re from Philadelphia by way of Mississippi) add their own brand of swaggering power to the sonic template.
From the hand-clapping ruckus of opener “I Just Wanna” to the inescapable strutting melody at the center of “Say What You Want” to the menacing, riveting closer “3 More,” in which guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Pierre Moore asks the listener, grammar be damned, “What would you do if you was in my shoes?,” this is a band that means it. John the Conqueror’s music is loaded with attitude, but not a speck of pretension. This is no frills, from the gut rock and roll and the impact is immediate.
Often times bands that travel this musical territory write songs which facelessly blend together, but Pierre Moore, whose vocals lie somewhere between old blues and southern rock, manages to give each song its own unique hook while maintaining the same root sound. Michael Gardner’s drumming can either propel the groove forward, or lock it in place, creating a rhythmic tension with bassist Ryan Lynn that lays down the foundation for Moore’s guitar jabs. Overall, the band sound limber, loose, as if any song could have a sudden, drastic change in volume, intensity or rhythm.
Moore also produced the album, and much like the music, it’s void of bells and whistles, free of any artifice. You wouldn’t describe this music as sophisticated or clever, but it overflows with honesty and passion – two important qualities you can’t fake. And as hinted at earlier, the individual songs are surprisingly infectious. The aforementioned “3 More” is as good a song as I’ve heard in a few years – one that demands repeated plays.
According to the Alive Naturalsound website, 100 copies of the record were pressed on “Purple Haze” vinyl, so move extremely fast if you wish to snag one. There’s no insert, but the band lineup and recording credits are included on the back cover. And if I didn’t make the case strongly enough in the opening paragraph, this is one damn cool album cover – the kind of image that seems destined to become iconic. Speaking of the opening paragraph, I’ll sum up this review with a one word description of John the Conqueror – badass.
1.) I Just Wanna
2.) Southern Boy
4.) All Alone
5.) Time to Go
1.) Say What You Will
2.) Come Home With Me
3.) Letter of Intervention
4.) Passing Time
5.) 3 More