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coverpic flag Sweden - Full Moon 103 - 02/24/05

Clay Allison
Love On Depression Street
Wild Dog Music / Osito Records (N)

A quick search on the Net reveals that Robert Clay Allison was born in Tennessee in 1840. He joined the Confederate Army at the beginning of the Civil War. His service didn't last long, though. He was discharged as a result of his 'personality problems'. His wild mood swings, easy anger, especially when drinking, and recklessness made him a dangerous person... Clay drove cattle, then settled at his own ranch in New Mexico in 1870. At that time he had already reportedly killed about 15 men, but it was after this that most of his killings occurred. He once allegedly declared: "I never killed a man that didn't need killing." Clay used the term shootist about himself rather than gunfighter.

Unlike most gunfighters - or shootists - he didn't die in a blaze of gunfire or at the end of a hangman's noose. While travelling from Pecos, Texas, to his ranch, a sack of grain fell from the wagon. Trying to halt it's fall he fell from the wagon. The next moment one of the wagon wheels rolled across Allison's neck and broke it. He died 47 years old.

Now, what kind of modern-day pop or rock band can match such a life? My guess is none. Not even the most hard-boiled gangsta rapper, nor the late Hunter S. Thompson for that matter. And not a band from Linköping, Sweden, not even with a line-up including trombone and Hammond organ. Well, lyrically the outlaw attitude shows up, like: "Fuck this shit - I'm going, I wanna settle this right now, I can't believe the things I'm hearing, There's only room for me in this town..." (from "Drive By") and not least "No need to fight each other, I'll shoot you straight away" (from "No Need").

Love On Depression Street is Clay Allison's debut album. It was released in Sweden by Wild Dog about a year ago. Now it's been launched by Osito Records for distribution in Noway, Spain, Portugal - and South America! The press sheet states that the band carefully treads or crosses paths Lloyd Cole, Afghan Whigs, the Smiths, the Church and Go-Betweens have walked before them. Well, to some extent. At least this gives an indication of what Clay Allison's music is about. Other reviews mention Norwegian the Margarets and Weeping Willows, Swedish David & the Citizens, even the Beatles, the Cure, My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division! Certainly not! I'll stick to that first bunch of 80s and 90s heroes. For the record I might add a touch of R.E.M., Jackson Browne and especially Neil Young. Some songs are happy and uplifting, some laid-back in the singer-songwriter tradition, others only quiet. Yet there is a certain melancholic after-taste throughout the album suitable on Depression Street, particularly present in the lyrics.

Love On Depression Street is neat. Or "Good, Clean" as they call it themselves in one of the more attractive songs. At first I thought the music was a little too laid-back, perhaps even anaemic, like the cover picture. It probably has to do with the neat arrangements and production. Sometimes there's a wide gap between the sweet and gentle music and harsh lyrics, though the latter are not without a certain resigned irony or humour.

But the band possesses the most essential asset concerning this kind of music: a good nose for catchy melody lines and hooks. After a few spins, some of the songs really stand out. At the moment I especially enjoy the opening track "Believe In Me" - with an uplifting punch, trombone and an ultra short phaser-drenched organ solo, "Red Inside" - melancholic, beautiful, with a catchy refrain, and the title track - dominated by an acoustic guitar, quite Neil Young'ish. "Kneeler" is another favourite. It starts quite slow and calm. Towards the end it turns experimental with some nice guitar/organ/trombone circles and closes in an adrenaline kick. The perfect ending of a Clay Allison gig, I suspect. And there are more...

I guess Clay Allison works even better - for me at least - live. Who knows, with some rougher edges and a bit wilder trombone, they might even get close to a shoot-out in the middle of High Street outside the saloon!

Copyright © 2005 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Clay Allison article/review: Ten To One.

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