Album Review: Joe Gideon – Versa Vice

Continuing our round-up of albums that we missed while we were offline, we look at the first solo album from Joe Gideon, Versa Vice:

Joe Gideon has been making excellent records with his previous bands Bikini Atoll and Joe Gideon & The Shark for well over a decade and continues this excellent run of form with his first solo LP.

Those of you who’ve heard the two albums recorded with ‘The Shark’ (his sister Viva, currently collaborating with Archie Bronson Outfit’s Arp & Capitol K’s Kristian Craig Robinson as part of Loose Meat), will have some idea of what to expect: semi-spoken tales of mystery, madness and redemption abound over artfully sparse musical backing, but Versa Vice isn’t simply a case of picking up where he left off when the duo split in 2014.  Lyrically more personal, musically rawer and more primal, this is a claustrophobic and at times dark collection that stands on its own amongst Gideon’s impressive back catalogue.

Featuring an impressive supporting cast, including Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos, Duke Garwood on horns and Ed Harcourt tinkling the ivories, this is an album of subtle drama, meticulously crafted under tight restrictions like a boat in a bottle.

Themes of isolation and insanity are woven throughout the nine tracks on the record, most overtly on the disturbing, minimalist ‘Rubber Room’ which could easily be the soundtrack to David Lynch’s daydreams, and on ‘Eugene Went Crazy’, which tracks the protagonist’s descent into madness both lyrically and musically, building from light chiming guitars and twinkling keys to a crescendo of thumping drums and throbbing chords.

Elsewhere, ‘Heart Attack Girl’ is a glam rock stomper peppered with religious imagery, another motif of the album, particularly on portentous opener ‘Eve’s Rib’ (which originally featured on Bikini Atoll’s second album Liar’s Exit) with its primal drumming and tribal yelps – a good fit for Gideon’s almost evangelical vocal intonation.

A dark but rewarding trip into the shadowy corners of the human mind, Versa Vice is an understated gem of deceptive depth and complexity.

Review by Paul Maps

Versa Vice is out now on Bronze Rat Records.
Watch the video for ‘The Lady With The Metallic Voice’ below:

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