My Jerusalem – Gone For Good

My Jerusalem - Gone For Good

Does it qualify as a supergroup when a new band of six has ties to at least eight other acts? Some might argue that widespread fame and popularity must preclude the formation of said collective but, if this is the case, My Jerusalem is just another indie pop band comprised of talented people who haphazardly came together through a series of chance encounters while pursuing other endeavors. There are no Led Zeppelin or Rage Against the Machine ties to this group, no connections with Guns n’ Roses or The White Stripes to be had. Unless you feel that names such as The Polyphonic Spree and Great Northern should be held in equal esteem with some of the aforementioned titans of popular music, then My Jerusalem is no supergroup.

As it turns out though, the near-absence of star power and rock star egotism in this band result in an unanticipated – and far more satisfying – kind of supergroup, one in which the whole is decidedly greater than the sum of its parts. Since the cast of My Jerusalem (indie vets such as Jeff Klein, Dave Rosser, and Ashley Dzerigian, among others) is unlikely to earn an audience by name alone, there’s a greater sense of urgency and purpose that comes through in their music, something often lost on bigger names who can get away with churning out prosaic material because it’s obscured by the glow of nostalgia. On the group’s debut, Gone For Good, the focus placed on creative energy and sharp songwriting comes through in spades, resulting in an album that weaves a harrowing, but no less entertaining, path from spasmodic catharsis to ethereal baroque pop.

My Jerusalem is at its best when the extremes are exploited, as is the case with companion tracks like “Proposition” and “Sweet Chariot.”  The former is a mesmerizing yet moody waltz/dirge that features cool jazz flugelhorn licks and brooding string textures, while the latter is a raucous assemblage of Rosser’s chugging guitar rhythms and Klein’s Isaac Brock-ian yawp (“What you want?!”). The songs stand tall on their own merit, but it’s the stark contrast between the two that really envelops the listener. The same can be said of “Poison the Truth” and “Shake the Devil,” which pits bummed out Sky Blue Sky-era Wilco against rough and tumble country rock, respectively. “I hit the ground / and stopped believin’ / the room was spinning / the walls were bleedin’,” sings Klein on the second number, as a barrage of horns and whistling flesh out the texture.

Gone For Good’s most sublime moment comes early in the form of “Sleepwalking,” a tune which the band has aptly described as the sound of “Abba on ecstasy.” In it, My Jerusalem suffuses all of the parsed ambience and spaz outs of other songs, meaning that we’re treated to dulcet mallet percussion, warm reverb, choir harmonies, a club beat, and abrasive vocal screams all in the span of four minutes. The blissful Polyphonic Spree connection is readily apparent, but that’s not a bad thing by any means. Another album highlight is “Bury It Low,” which recalls Modest Mouse’s “Bury Me With It” in more than just namesake. “I put the hammer down / we’re burning bridges tonight / I let my honey drown,” howls Klein, sounding uncharacteristically volatile against a thumping disco beat and Rick Nelson’s synthesizers.

Ironically, the only underwhelming offering of the album’s twelve tracks is opener “Valley Of Casualties,” which is probably the type of tune The New Pornographers would write if Burt Bacharach joined their crew. The song is pleasant enough with its flugelhorn melody and Dzerigian’s honeyed backup vocals, but the chorus of chugging guitars and thick orchestration ends up being less affecting than it intends.

This one slight misstep aside, Gone For Good is a fun and engrossing record. A veritable who’s who of indie rock, My Jerusalem has constructed a supergroup actually worthy of that tag. Let’s just hope this goes beyond a one-off.