If you had informed me in the fall of 1989 that I would be moshing to Bikers, a cut off of Neighborhood Texture Jam‘s album Funeral Mountain in the fall of 2005, I probably would have blown smoke in your face. Because at the time I smoked. Marlboro Reds, occasionally with the filter torn off. Yeah, I know. Not good for you. But, as it turns out, I did see NTJ last night at undeniably best club venue in Memphis, The HiTone, and the show was definitely one of the best I’ve been to in the past decade.
To the unintiated, and, let’s face it, if you are reading this, you probably are unintiated in the ways of Memphis hard rock/punk scene in general, NTJ plays old-school, intellectual, unapologetic, pseudo-punk in a way that will make you have a hard time deciding between contemplating the meaning of the lyrics and throwing the guy in front of you back into pit from which he was ejected. The band is fronted by Joe Lapsley and features many of the most talented rock musicians to come from Memphis. Originally famous (and named) for the fact that they use stuff they would find around their neighborhood as instruments (oil barrels, corrugated tin sheets, sticks, and steel window burglar bars as just a few examples), the group combines a synthesized political commentary laced with irony and some of the catchyist hooks you’ve ever heard.
I mean, who can forget tracks like Don’t Get Loud With Me, Bitch, which is about the Khmer Rouge take-over of Cambodia in the late-1970’s and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Running from Miami, at look the business of drug dealing from the prospective of a successful kingpin. One of my particular faves is Borax Factory, which takes the metaphors we all have experienced when a relationship sours and shares them with the world:
I fell into the Borax factory of your love;
Dragged by a mule train
Out across the alkaline plains
To the Borax factory of your love.
Almost brings a tear to the eye.
Anyway, I actually attended the launch party for Funeral Mountain, probably on accident but I can’t be sure. Many of the members of NTJ attended Rhodes College, where I was enrolled as a freshman, and there were flyers up everywhere. The album never got the level of critical acclaim it was due, which is really a shame, and the other two albums by NTJ, Total Social Negation and Don’t Bury Me in Haiti, lacked some of the intensity and depth of the debut record, but NTJ has remained a Memphis favorite, for good reason. If you get a chance to catch a show, do not miss it. Wait, you actually have a chance coming up:
Neighborhood Texture Jam
Ernestine and Hazel’s – Map
October 29th, 2005