[Review] Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods (1988)

Harrison’s second album again sounds like contemporary Talking Heads with the helium sucked out.

Kronomyth 2.0: Naked the Mountain.

Proof that I’m not perfect: the previous review of Casual Gods. The record just didn’t inspire me to great things; still doesn’t, in fact, but sometimes we have to rise above our surroundings. The short line on Gods is this: Talking Heads without the helium arrangements. I would point you to underwhelming Heads songs like “Swamp” and “Ruby Dear” for context. Jerry Harrison has a serviceable voice, mildly threatening in an Arto Lindsay kind of way, and in fact Lindsay serves as a reference point for the funky arrangements as well.

I know, this review is taking a pedestrian turn, so let’s talk about the little wrenches: occasionally intoxicating keyboard ornaments, funky guitar riffs and some eye-opening insights (e.g., Man with a Gun). If David Byrne was a man on fire, Jerry Harrison is a man with a pesky sunburn. He slips coolly into the dark places looking for a little relief, casually relating the minor demons that plague him.

Harrison has a knack for interesting arrangements, abetted by like-minded east coast artistes (David Van Tieghem) and familiar faces (Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir). If you’re looking for a good time, however, the party’s not happening here. Jerry Harrison may be the most serious Head, though not as serious as the album artwork would suggest. You won’t find the answer to life’s troubles here, nor the missing link of light remaining, only a competent collection of prickly rock tracks from a name that still turns heads in certain quarters.

Original elpee version

A1. Rev It Up (Jerry Harrison/John Sieger/Ernie Brooks) (4:17)
A2. Song of Angels (3:35)
A3. Man With A Gun (4:35)
A4. Let It Come Down (4:52)
A5. Cherokee Chief (Jerry Harrison/Ernie Brooks) (4:30)
B1. A Perfect Lie (Jerry Harrison/Arthur Russell/Ernie Brooks) (4:25)
B2. Are You Running? (Jerry Harrison/Ernie Brooks/Monique Dayan) (4:20)
B3. A.K.A. Love (4:10)
B4. We’re Always Talking (4:40)
B5. Bobby (4:03)

CD bonus track
11. Bobby (12” version)

Songs written by Jerry Harrison unless noted.

The Players

Jerry Harrison (guitars, keyboards & vocals), Rick Jaeger (drums), Alex Weir (guitars, bass) with Joyce Bowden (singer on B1), Monique Dayan (singer on A5), Arlene Holmes (singer), Yogi Horton (drums on A3), Dickie Landry (sax on B1), Robbie McIntosh (guitars on A5/B1), Lovelace Redmond (singer), Arthur Russell (singer on B1), Chris Spedding (guitars on A1/A5), David van Tieghem (drums, percussion), Bernie Worrell (bass synthesizer on B1). Produced by Jerry Harrison; assistant producer: Ernie Brooks; engineered by David Vartanian except B3 by Jay Mark; overdub engineered by David Vartanian, Dave Avidor, J.C. Covertino, Robin Laine, John “Tokes” Potoker, Eric “E.T.” Thorngren; additional engineering by John “Tokes” Potoker; mixing by David Vartanian, John “Tokes” Potoker, Eric “E.T.” Thorngren except B3 by Jay Mark.

The Pictures

Photography by Sebastiao Salgado/Magnum. Design by M&Co.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and expanded compact disc in February 1988 in the US (Sire, 25663), the UK (Fontana, SFLP/SFMC2), Australia, Germany and the Netherlands (Fontana/Phonogram, 832 992) and Canada (Sire, 92 56631/4) with picture innersleeve. Reached #78 on the US charts.

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