Review
 
Beat Magzine, October 2007
 

JEAN LEE AND THE YELLOW DOG, PART I
(Hot Records)


Review by Patrick Emery
 

In the aftermath of the highly anticipated Saints reunion, popular consensus was that Chris Bailey needs the Saints – and the prolifically talented Ed Kuepper – infinitely more than Kuepper needs Bailey, The Saints or indeed anything in the past. Kuepper, like trivial few of his national and international contemporaries, is able to discover, explore and exploit new sources of artistic inspiration quicker than John Howard searching for a community concern to pork barrel.

Kuepper's latest project is a concept piece built around the life of Jean Lee, the last woman hanged in Australia. With lyrics written primarily by Kuepper’s wife, Jean Lee and the Yellow Dog interprets Lee’s compelling story, a life typical of persons subject of extreme penal retribution – dysfunctional relationships, alcohol abuse, petty crimes that mutates into serious criminal behaviour.

With Kuepper's collaboration with former Laughing Clowns colleague Jeffrey Wegener, augmented by Sunnyboys bassist Peter Oxley, now formalised as the Kowalski collective, musically the album is riddled with Kuepper’s characteristically excellent riffs and brooding melodies. The opening track, Hang Jean Lee, is a classic Kuepper of insurmountable quality, and from one distorted perspective the only compelling argument for capital punishment.

Yet on Miracles – which sees Warren Ellis guest on violin – the mood is introspective, presumably reflecting Lee’s thoughts as the state prepares to deprive her of her life. That Depends Part 3 (featuring Chris Bailey on vocals) is as restless as Lee evolved to be, Skinny Jean is dark, angry and a criminological essay in itself, Demolition a sparse collage of childhood images that paint a picture of the human tragedy waiting to unfold and the dysfunctional narrative played out in Shame sits in direct contrast to the invigorating garage tone of the song itself. Real to Me is rustic; the background noise in the companion piece, Real to Me Part 2 suggests capital punishment as social theatre. And finally there’s the perfectly titled Ambient Piece, a minute of almost nothingness, followed by Jean Brings Him Gasoline, quite possibly Kuepper’s most nightmarish composition.

Ed Kuepper isn’t the first artist to become fascinated by Jean Lee’s story – but you’d have to go a long way to find anyone who’s created such a near perfect piece of art out of such a pathetic tale of human and sub-cultural imperfection.

PATRICK EMERY

 
The original article can be found at: http://www.beat.com.au/review.php?id=825
 
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