Perverse, released in 1993, was the third studio album by Jesus Jones.
Singles from the album were “The Devil You Know”, “The Right Decision” and “Zeroes and Ones”. “The Devil You Know” reached number 1 on the Modern Rock chart in the U.S., while “Zeroes and Ones” reached number 30 in the UK charts.
Zeroes and Ones – 3:24
The Devil You Know – 4:31
Get a Good Thing – 3:23
From Love to War – 3:49
Yellow Brown – 3:23
Magazine – 2:46
The Right Decision – 3:36
Your Crusade – 3:30
Don’t Believe It – 3:45
Tongue Tied – 3:16
Spiral – 4:30
Idiot Stare – 5:10
All songs written by Mike Edwards
There’s a pretty strong argument for saying that “Perverse” is the first, real Jesus Jones album. The previous two albums always felt a little like we were working towards someone else’s agenda.“Liquidizer” was designed to be a collection of everything we’d done since we’d signed a record deal – a fast, frenetic snapshot of where we were at a moment in time. The day it came out, we were already plotting our next move. “Doubt” was written and recorded in response to the success we’d achieved, and was an attempt to live up to the expectations that the media and the record company had placed on us. With equal measures of luck, and judgement, “doubt” became a huge success, and one of the by-products of that success was the ability to finally find our own voice, and do what we wanted to do. With “Perverse” we were finally free to make a record which was of our own choosing. 1991 turned out to be a massive year for us – we toured the US and Canada (twice!), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, supported INXS at Wembley Stadium, played a UK tour, a European tour, and then went back to Europe to do the festival circuit. The year ended with a “Food Christmas Party” at Brixton Academy, and the realisation that afterwards, we could get down to work on album number three. The writing process was similar to that on “doubt” – Mike would fire up the keyboard workstation wherever we were in the world, and produce more demos. Most of the working titles of the songs reflect where they were written – “Den Haag”, “St. Louis”, “Adelaide”, “Melbourne”, “New South Wales”. The songs also reflected our growing obsession with Techno; rock music felt tired, listless and uninspiring. We were constantly seeking out new sounds, new inspirations, and it seemed like the only people who were making anything exciting were those people involved with dance music. There was a certain kinship too – though we were labelled as an “indie” band, it was a real struggle to find any contemporaries who were doing what we were doing, so we naturally gravitated towards anyone who was using an AKAI Sampler, Cubase and a keyboard. In the the early summer of 1992, myself and Mike had become regulars at Knowledge, London’s most dedicated Techno club. Every Wednesday we would troop down to the SW1 club in Victoria, to see DJs like Sven Vath, Colin Favor or Colin Dale, to watch artists like The Aphex Twin, and to spend hours on a dancefloor, lost in the music of Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, Carl Craig.
All of this made us feel alive, and connected to something we felt was important – musicians who were doing the same things we were, with the same technology, constantly innovating and experimenting, constantly looking to the future. All of that fed neatly into how we looked at Jesus Jones, and how we believed we should be moving forward as a band. So, throughout the rest of 1992, we took that new-found zeal, and worked on getting the demos into shape. Mike had moved out of his flat on Chapter Road in Willesden, and travelled about a mile and a half, to a new house in Kilburn. As well as a Skatepark in the back garden, he’d installed a new studio in an upstairs bedroom, and immersed himself in writing and reworking. With the new studio came new gadgets – chiefly a Roland JD 800 synth. It’s that which made perhaps the biggest impact on “Perverse”, the buzzing, metallic melodies, and sawtoothed riffs are everywhere on the album. It’s the first sound you hear, on the main riff to “Zeroes & Ones”, and produces the last noises that fade away to silence at the end of “Idiot Stare”.
As the album took shape, it became clear that whatever musical input was made, tended to be inputting data into the computer. There were no drum kits, there was no bass guitar, precious little lead guitar either. And so, the concept behind “Perverse” emerged: as a band obsessed with technology, sampling, and creating music on computer, this was to be an album which would reflect that completely. The whole thing could exist on floppy discs, we could do away with so much of the traditional methods of making music. These days, we email files to each other without a second thought, we can download countless gigabytes of information, and shift it around with ease; but back in 1992, the idea that you could just get in a cab, with one floppy disc containing a cubase program, take it off to a studio, load it into another computer and create an album, seemed completely intoxicating. So, that’s what we did. Mike chose Warne Livesey as producer, primarily for the work he’d done on The The’s album “Infected”. Mike packed up the discs, and Warne laid everything down in the studio, adding weight and muscle to the basic demos.
Now that we’d had our idea about recording digitally, we decided to pursue it ruthlessly. The members of the band were to be known as “virtual players”, we were all credited on the sleeve as having contributed digital input within a range of frequencies. We felt as though we were breaking new ground – and we were! “Perverse” was one of the very first albums to be completely digital in its production.
And that’s where the rot set in, with the press. Mike gave an interview where he said it was to be “a rock album for the 90’s”. We were universally panned, and most journalists seemed to think we’d said it was the best album of the 90’s, which of course we never did. We were cocky, certainly – but not that cocky. At that time, Grunge was in the ascendant, and there was this almost atavistic rush to embrace “real” music. Machines couldn’t rock. There was a return to muso values, an urge to look backwards, in the face of a bright new future. It was all the more frustrating as we just felt that rock music had to look forward, in order to move forward. We were sneered at when we said that one day, all rock music would be made like this. We weren’t totally right – but we were pretty close. We’re now in a world where garageband, logic, reason, and dozens of other music creation programs have revitalised the creative urge, and musicians from every genre imaginable (not just dance music) wouldn’t think twice about making, and disseminating their music via a laptop. It would be nice to be able to sit back and enjoy seeing our predictions come true – but it’s tinged with the knowledge that we lost a war, and won a battle long after that war had been forgotten. Once the press has made up its mind, it’s virtually impossible to change it back. So, “Perverse” arrived on a wave of mediocre reviews, from a puzzled, disbelieving press. If anything, that hardened our stance: we circled the wagons, and stuck to our guns. The conflict actually gave us a lot of focus.
Subliminally perhaps, “Perverse” also enabled us to handle that conflict because it’s an album with conflict at its core. One of the track titles “From Love To War” sums that up rather neatly. the band had been touring ceaselessly for three years, and the pressure was taking its toll. There were fistfights, arguments and squabbles. The fame we enjoyed had become a giant horror for Mike, plunging him into depression, and doubts over his talents, and abilities. (The first batch of demos for the album was called “Doom, Gloom and Despondency”, and Dave Balfe from Food started to refer to Mike as “The Doom Merchant”). Mike’s marriage was falling apart, and the rest of us were burning out, fast. A lot of “Perverse” reflects that chaos, whether it’s the inability to move in the face of it (“Tongue Tied”, “Idiot Stare”) or just the absolute chaos itself (“Spiral”). People have said it’s a “rave” album, but, if anything, it’s the dark side of ecstasy – the crushing comedown, the self-loathing, and the search for some form of redemption.
Overall – “Perverse” was a commercial letdown, a failure – perhaps. Mind you, it still sold over half a million copies, which is the sort of failure plenty of people would love to attain. It was something we wanted to do, which we felt we had to do; and we wouldn’t change it in any way – even with the benefits of hindsight. The self-belief we felt then, is still alive today. And, over the years, one of the nicest things about “Perverse” is that people seem to spot that self-belief, relate to it, and empathise with the album. It’s become a real “fan favourite”, the one record that people will still come up to you and want to talk about: “Ah, “Perverse”! That’s my favourite Jesus Jones album!”
The fallout from “Perverse” would take years to settle, and would change all of us. We were never quite the same band again – Mike would be particularly stung by its reception, and it took him a while to recover his songwriting mojo. The decrease in our profile led to a period of inactivity that saw our Drummer Gen leave the band. Trust between band and press had been irrevocably shattered. It would be four very long, very hard years, before another Jesus Jones album was released – and that record would push us even closer to the brink.
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