By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
If James Hall ever became immensely popular, we'd have to kill him; for now, he's still our little secret. Obligatory understatement: Here Comes the Trick, the first album by Hall and his band, Pleasure Club, may be the best rock record we've heard in years. The new songs are both eerily prophetic and nervously dangerous: "Permanent Solution," the opening track, could be the soundtrack for the United States' retaliatory strikes on Al Qaeda. Cue up the Arabic chanting, clanging sleigh bells, the frenetic sense of urgency, then brace yourself as the band kicks in like a fuckin' daisy cutter. Surely not Hall's original intention--the song was written and recorded in April 2000--yet way under the radar and still visionary by default. It's scary just listening to it. Life imitating art and shit.
If you don't know much about Hall, catch up: He began his career as the leader of an Atlanta band called Mary My Hope; their excellent debut album Museum was released in 1989, and the band subsequently toured Europe with Jane's Addiction and Love and Rockets. The next year, the group released the live EP Suicide Kings, before Hall (then considered a certifiable lunatic) disappeared and left the band, record label and a handful of rabid fans wondering where in the hell he went.
A couple of years later Hall resurfaced sane and sober in New Orleans, where he began writing and recording a brilliant solo album called My Love, Sex, and Spirit. Released on Daemon Records, the 1993 album generated a blistering street buzz, but marginal sales. The charismatic Hall and his band spent most of 1994 and '95 overseas, even playing the mammoth Reading Festival in England.
Based on the strength of his fervent live show, Hall then secured a major-label deal with Geffen Records. Three years later, the album Pleasure Club was finally released. No single, no video, no promotion and no radio airplay. By then, Hall's A&R rep Mio Vuchovic had left for a new position at Sony, and in six short weeks, Hall's solo debut was officially dead in the water.
In 1997 he took some time off to play guitar and keyboards in Stone Gossard's side project Brad, as well as contributing an acoustic cover of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" to the nauseating flick American Psycho. His band began a weekly residency at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, then eventually headed back out on the road. Perhaps you saw him blow Creed off the stage at Trees during that time.
Hall continued touring until early 2000, wrote and recorded new material with producer Jay Joyce in Nashville, then renamed his band Pleasure Club. Bassist Grant Curry has been by Hall's side since 1990. Dallas folk will recognize former Course of Empire pounder Mike Jerome wreaking havoc behind the drum kit; this is the band Mr. Jerome was born to play in. New guitarist Marc Hutner was formerly in the L.A. band Sugartooth.
If you've never seen this band, what can you look forward to? Well, look at this as a late Christmas present. You don't want to know until you see it for yourself.