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Members include Jerry De Borg, (born Jerry Simon de Abela Borg Born,October 30, 1960, in London, England), guitar, backing vocals;Michael James Edwards, (born June 22, 1964, inLondon, England), vocals, lead guitar, sampling; Iain Baker, (also known as Barry D, born September 29, 1965, inCarshalton, England), keyboards; Al Jaworski, (born AlanLeon Doughty, January 1, 1966, in Plymouth, England), bass guitar, backing vocals; Simon Matthews, (also known as Gen, leftband in 1996), drums. Addresses: Record company-Food Records/EMI, 810 Seventh Avenue, New York,NY 10019 E-mail: Fan club Emailemail@example.com.
The end of the 1980s saw a flowering of British acts that fused the unlikely combination of club inspired electronic beats and samples with guitar riffs that might easily find a home on a hard rock record, and the London, England centered band Jesus Jones was among the most visible of these. However, unlike many of these groups, Jesus Jones struck deep into sales charts worldwide, and eluded falling into the traps of mere faddism. After the solid successes of their first and second albums Liquidizer in 1989 and Doubt, in 1991. The swaggering, often inflated public persona of frontman Mike Edwards reached a fever pitch and the singer made grandiose claims of the band's importance and influence. Perhaps victims of their own arrogance, JesusJones fell into a relative slump with their third record, Perverse, and the future of the band seemed dubious. Such doubts were appeased with Already, released in the U.K. after a several year hiatus, which returned the outfit to their prior exploits of politically engaged, high-energy pop music.
Jesus Jones formed in 1988, when London born Mike Edwards, longtime friend and drummer Gen, born Simon Matthews, and guitarist Jerry De Borg were vacationing on the beaches of Spain. Despite all appearances, their moniker was chosen not as a mark of anti-Christian blasphemy, but merely as a humorous cultural clash. "We were surrounded by people called Jesus," Edwards told People Weekly. "So we just put it with something very English. We could have followed in [controversial writer] Salman Rushdie's footsteps andcalled ourselves Mohammed Jones." In England, the trio was rounded out by keyboardist Barry D, real name Iain Baker, and bass player Al Jaworski. Given the teetering careers of the group'smembers - Edwards had been variously an unemployment check writer, a building mechanic,and a city council worker - committing to Jesus Jones full time presented little problem.
After Andy Ross, then head of the semi-independent Food Records, heard a cheaply produced demo cassette of what was to become Jesus Jones' "Info Freako," the band was snatched up by the label immediately. When that demo became the groups's debut single inFebruary of 1989, Jesus Jones was suddenly nearing the British Top 40 charts and gracing the covers of music magazines. Edwards, who christened himself Jesus H. Jones, supplied theBritish press with the perfect kind of sassy quips to keep him in the limelight. Nevertheless, this marked the beginning of a sometimes strained relationship between Jesus Jones and British critics, who found an easy target in the mouthpiece's bravado.
After the release of several more singles, the group had amassed enough material for the album Liquidizer, which hit British stores in the fall of 1989. As the title may suggest,Liquidizer was an impressive amalgam of the band's sundry influences, 38 of whom are thanked in the album's liner notes, ranging from the ear splitting noise outfit Big Black to the rapping EricB. However, it was hip hop and rap styles that dominated the record's landscape, and electronic sampling that gave it a special flavor. While hardly an innovation within dance music as such,the use of sampling was a fresh innovation to a band with strong rock underpinnings. "The sampler is the ultimate instrument to access sounds," Edwards later told People magazine. "With it, your imagination is not limited by your natural abilities. Without it, you'd be a boring guitar band like everyone else."
Peppered with Top 50 singles including "Info Freako" and "Bring It On Down," Liquidizeritself peaked at the 32 position, but perhaps more importantly gave the band high visibility andstar status in the U.K. While playing live, supporting Tin Machine, then a vehicle for veteran singer David Bowie, Jesus Jones demonstrated that despite their penchant for electronic equipment, their stage presence was not bogged down with the prerecorded quality of which techno groups are sometimes guilty in concert. The band soon headlined their own tour in support of Liquidizer, which included a critically lauded show at the London Town and Country Club. In step with the political tone that was emerging in their lyrics, Jesus Jones continued their tour and ushered in the 1990s with a series of gigs in the revolution-torn country of Romania.
If the sudden success of Jesus Jones in their home country left the band mildly bemused, then their virtual conquering of America was a total befuddlement. Throughout 1990, the group released a string of singles in Britain that became their biggest sellers yet, with "InternationalBright Young Thing" cresting at Number Seven. Subsequently, when the accompanying album,Doubt, entered the British charts in the top position, it was not without fanfare. However, when these same singles were released in the U.S., their popularity was even better, and Jesus Jones abona fide overnight success. The song "Right Here Right Now," a perfect encapsulation of the uncertain but inspiring state of affairs in Eastern Europe, peaked at number two, and was later adopted by a major network's news program as a theme song.
After the overwhelming success of Doubt, the less than modest Edwards, who had become something of a teen heartthrob in the U.S., continue to teeter between self-confidence and campy arrogance. "We are influential now over a lot of bands, throughout the world," Edwards averred to Kim Neely in Rolling Stone. "It isn't just England; there are bands in Japan and Australia, and soon they'll be Jesus Jones-influenced bands in America." While the fusion of rock and dance was perhaps contagious at the time, beyond a handful of acts, most notably the British EMF,Jesus Jones' status of pop music missionaries was at best doubtful. However, such boasting had surely been part of the band's allure from the beginning, as with so many pop stars. "Rock music is there for people to be pompous, to make possibly stupid statements," Edwards told Neely. "These are not opportunities you get if you're an accountant. I chide myself for not taking advantage of this. With the next album, I probably will do that sort of thing. It's time for Jesus Jones to be pretentious and outrageous-not just solid and worthy."
While the next album, Perverse, may not have been pretentious or outrageous, it did mark a diversion from Jesus Jones' guitar driven flavor and was a partial disappointment. Pushing their love of techno to the extreme, songs like Magazine and Yellow Brown used electronic sounds to critique life in an electronically mediated world. As Gil Griffin wrote in Time, "Perverse is rather perverse about the electronic age: with lucid and ironic lyrics that lurk beneath the surface's maelstrom, it examines politics, pop culture, love, and hypocrisy in a world that has become overly high tech." Other critics found the new album hal fhearted, and even many fans agreed that the gigs which supported it "only seldom overcame the lazy craftsmanship that made the album somewhat disappointing," as Elysa Gardner penned in Rolling Stone. Nevertheless,Perverse still managed to break the Top Ten in the U.K. In retrospect, Edwards caustically quipped to internet writer Shaun Phillips that "the album was really good. It was our most adventurous and most principled, that's why it failed. If you call half a million failing."
The Second Coming
The mixed reception of Perverse avalanched into a career slump for Jesus Jones, and for several years the existence of the band seemed bleak during the mid-1990s. While Edwards hadwritten at least an album's worth of material, a divorce in 1994 soured the songwriter, and the departure of Gen, who joined the band Baby Chaos in the fall of 1996, only made matters worse. Still, although Jesus Jones was collectively dormant, issuing only remixes of earlier singles, band members were rustling with activity. Jaworski moonlighted in the in the southern-fried Chicago, Illinois outfit the Waco Brothers. De Borg and Baker were busy with various technical jobs, and Edwards offered his engineering services to recordings made by acts as unlikely as the Swedish duo Roxette and ex-porn star Traci Lords.
Recording in the house of ace producer Martin Phillips, whose credits included dance groups Erasure and the Beloved, Jesus Jones was a coherent band once again, and the result was a return to form with the album Already, released in the U.S in the spring of 1998. "Already is unashamedly reminiscent of old school Jesus Jones," wrote Shaun Phillips. "Edwards' vocal style, for instance, is as unforgettable as it is consistent - albeit exploring new sonic territory,especially on the self-explanatory "Wishing It Away" and "February," a tune about seasonallyadjusted depression." In spite of the similarity to earlier material and a world tour, the album did not generate the fervor of fans as around Doubt. Ironically, by the time of the band's return many dance rock bands had achieved immense acclaim, but this time around Edwards kept his bragging in check. "I don't want to get into that 'I invented rock 'n' roll,' because I've had itwith all those soundbites and grandiose claims," Edwards told Phillips. "That's another thing that bores me about our past." Whether such boredom will inspire Edwards to take new chances with Jesus Jones remains to be seen.
by Sean Frentner
Jesus Jones's Career
Band conceived on the beaches of Spain and formed in London, England, 1988; signedwith Food Records, 1988; released debut album Liquidizer, 1989; played a series of dates inRomania, 1990; released Doubt, which established the band as global stars, 1991; perform atMTV's giant outdoor Rock In Rio festival in Brazil, 1993; released Perverse, 1993; guitarist DeBorg began side project, The Feely Room, 1997; made their "comeback" with the release ofAlready, 1998.
Jesus Jones's Awards
MTV Music Award, Best Video ("Right Here Right Now"), 1991.
- Selected discography
- Liquidizer , Food, 1989.
- Doubt , Food, 1991.
- Perverse , Food, 1993.
- Already , Food, 1998.
- Entertainment Weekly , June 13, 1997.
- People , August 26, 1991.
- Rolling Stone , May 16, 1991; June 24, 1993.
- Time , March 1, 1993.
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