Monday, April 29, 2013

J.T. IV-Cosmic Lightning LP (~1980s//2008)

 "it's kinda hard to write a song/when you've been inside these walls so long...."

This one's personal for a lot of reasons. J.T. IV grew up in my general part of the Chicagoland area (Roger's Park and Evanston), seems to have been a perpetually (and partially voluntarily) marginal member of the Chicago punk scene, and his songs generally evoke a sense of being so fucking neurotic and out of it that they don't fit into any given context, no matter how much one wants to say "Velvet Underground tribute" or "proto-whatever".

One of the frustrating things about the age of digital everything is that chronology and genealogies of influence are totally skewed: Listening to J.T. IV's stuff in the early '10s, it's easy to say "Oh yeah this dude sounds like Pink Reason" or whatever, but he was blasting out a unique blend of garage punk and lonely downer ballads back when "Anarchy in the U.K." was still a novelty. It's hard to imagine these songs in their original context, but my guess is that it doesn't matter much, since I'm pretty sure J.T. (short for John Timmis IV, I think) was doomed to be a loner while alive and now, post-mortem.

That makes it all the more important to keep this guy's work available, even if the originals had almost no impact upon first release, and the Drag City comp is out of print. "I'm Waiting for the CTA" is, you guessed it, a goofy, localized rave up of the Velvets' famous tune. "Death Trip" isn't a cover, but it manages to almost match the Stooges song for hard-edged intensity and the nihilistic glee you get when blasting it. Between them, these two songs set the tone for this compilation: a quintessentially late-'70s mix of glam, hard rock, proto-punk, and sheer outsider weirdness that doesn't fit any of our categories. J.T.'s voice is frail and quavering on most of these songs-especially the beautiful "In the Can/Out of the Can" sequence and "One Fine Day with the Karma Man." On "In the Can," we get a view of life from inside a mental institution, from a guy who woulda known. It's not just a slice of dementia, though: J.T. IV eloquently communicates the experience of total isolation and frustration, of knowing your friends are out there and care about you but won't be in touch for awhile. The best couplet is "When I finally get outta here/I'm gonna buy me a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer!'

As with most of my favorite records, I could rant about this one for way too long. I'd like to expostulate on a wonderfully paradoxical verse like "there are sometimes when I feel good/and other times when I feel fine/but I wouldn't even know it/if I didn't feel bad sometimes" for several paragraphs.  In the interests of getting you fuckers to actually listen to this guy's work, though, I'll shut up. In my opinion, J.T. IV's songs are some of the best, underappreciated bits of outsider punk ever made and you should all listen to this. My boy over at In the Zen Arcade posted this back in 2011, but I'm guessing mediafire killed the link so this is a justified post. If you don't like this compilation you shouldn't be reading this blog: It's that simple.

Tripped over a junky in the hallway....
Then, go BEG DRAG CITY RECORDS to re-release this compilation. I would happily buy 50 copies of any re-pressing and give away 48 of them to friends for conversion purposes.


  1. This album is the reason I continue stopping by for updated on your blod. Incredible stuff.

  2. We are re-pressing. Email me-- for more info.

  3. Thanks for digging this up. It's one of my favorite things ever.

  4. If you could refresh the link it would be much appreciated. Brilliant stuff! Thanks.