In a better, or at least fairer world, the artist known as BROTHER JT would be a big star instead of a cult figure revered by record geeks like myself, and musician types. Who knows, in some sideways universe perhaps he is, but it’s certainly not in this one. After getting his start in the 1980’s with garage legends The Original Sins, JT was rechristened Brother JT by legendary rock scribe Byron Coley. From there, he set off on his own long, strange path.
JT’s chemical intake and steady diet of obscure 45’s have yielded excellent musical results over the ensuing decades: from the Stooges meets Sun Ra machinations of his work with Vibrolux, to the loner folk of solo albums Off Blue, and the more electronic impulses of records like Third Ear Candy. All of these albums slotted alongside his more rock-oriented full band efforts such as Hang In There, Baby and Jelly Roll Gospel.
Tornado Juice, his latest offering for the venerable Thrill Jockey label, finds JT checking in with 13 garage-psych nuggets. It was recorded with the assistance of Ray Ketchem, who was responsible for producing one of his prior band’s best records, Bethlehem, back in 1996. The sounds captured in the studio were then further enhanced at home by ol’ JT on his refurbished Dell laptop.
The album does a pretty good job of putting all of the good brother’s disparate sounds and approaches together in one place. It’s a mostly upbeat collection of tunes with just the right dash of JT’s dark humor creeping around the edges. There’s a really nice and earnest soulfulness that shines through on “Mississippi Something.” Elsewhere, there is plenty of swirling, lysergic guitar leads snaking around, especially on glam-inflected stompers like “Peaks and Valleys.” Overall, it finds JT in a nostalgic mood with such tracks as “Back to the 90’s” looking to way back when, and wishing to unplug the existential hard drive on album opener “TMI.”
The deceptively upbeat “Ponin’” finds our hero trapped in a suburban malaise. On the album’s Barrett-esque acoustic closer “Oh Me Oh My,” he sings, “I got snakes in the brain, and a pain in the déjà vu.” It’s lyric that pretty much sums up the vibe of the proceedings here. It’s the portrait of an artist looking backwards and forwards – resolving to keep making art on their own terms with some kettle chips and perhaps a little bit of tornado juice along the way.
BUY the LP direct from Thrill Jockey – the link features some cool & insightful excerpts about the record from JT himself
Brother JT – Official Webspace