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TMS And The Baptists
The big man goes to Berlin, and comes up with the goods
Peter Murphy, 01 Dec 2010
Stefan Murphy is one of the good guys. A burly, shaggy man with a big growly voice, he writes gold-toothed Cathoholic blues tunes, ballads, shitkickers and swamp rock shanties, some of them odes to folk like Johnny Thunders and Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
TMS and the Baptists, his third album, was conceived and recorded in Berlin. Backed by the Baptists, Stef bellows protest songs, love songs, Saturday night out-of-it songs and Sunday morning coming down songs. Once or twice he bashes his thumb, mostly he hits the nail on the head.
A little reprogramming might be in order: the opening ‘John the Baptist’ is the most precarious tune on the record. Invoking Faces and Stones copyists, it recalls Kim Porcelli’s remark about ‘wonkily played pretendy-drunk alt. country’. The louder and longer you play it, the better it gets, but its Johnny Cash-like counterpart, situated halfway through the album, is far better.
Stef, it must be said, is quite the tradesman. TMS and the Baptists is a roulette in which the fates spin the wheel and dare him to put his own twist on classic 20th century songwriting styles. Thus ‘We Want Blood’ is a saloon waltz halfway between Hank Williams and the Pistols. ‘Blood and Whiskey’ is a penitent pub crawl with a 14 carat guitar break that marries Tom Waits to The Cramps. ‘Georgia Girl’ channels The Replacements into a classic beat group pop format. ‘Hollywood’ is Merle Haggard with angel delight harmonies. ‘Social Science’ splices Crime and the City Solution with Neil Diamond. And ‘Jeffrey Lee Pierce’ is a grand – nay, majestic – Spectoresque homage to the late Gun Club singer.
Key track: ‘Jeffrey Lee Pierce’