Praise Jesus 12-String Christ for the fury and temerity of nasty, grimy, paisley-printed rock ’n’ roll. The kind of garage rock that Trevor and The Joneses play unabashedly, unpoetically, almost rudely if it weren’t so goddamn inspiring, the kind of rock ’n’ roll that makes you feel jacked up, not offended on the sonic level, when you hear 24 guitar strings played simultaneously.
And what’s more, it has a tambourine. A goddamn tambourine. Played by a kid who looks like a character in a ’90s film about the Lower East Side of Manhattan, who joined the band to play nothing but tambourine and in turn plays the living shit out of it. I could write this entire page about him alone. But that would miss the point: Trevor and The Joneses has released an album. And it’s awesome.
There Was Lightning, the first full-length by Trevor and The Joneses — Trevor Jones, guitar/vox; Chris Montijo, drums; Dale Gilbert, bass; Joe Lawless, guitar; Kendall Franklin Jr., tambourine — comes almost a year after the band formed. Since then, Jones estimates the act has played about 50 shows, sometimes performing three times in a weekend, indiscriminately tackling everything with a stage and a microphone. “We’ve said no to nothing,” Jones says. “I love playing music. If I could do it every night I would, but playing in the same city makes it weird. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies all over the place. [Some people] only go to their bar. Some people think it’s weird, but we want to reach everyone we can.”
And they filled one of those crannies on a recent Saturday night, for free, to few more than friends, in the lo-fi cavern of Motor City Cafe. The titular member and nearly sole writer of all things Joneses, looking less like an exuberant ringleader and more like a GameStop employee, played from the darkest, only unlit corner of the stage, barely more than a fuzzy silhouette, hardly more a part of the overall stage presence than the glare of an overhead lamp. But by the second, maybe third, song, it’s hard to give a flying fuck about how Jones looks onstage. Everything coming off of his fingers sounds like Andre the Giant and a triceratops beating the hell out of each other, thundering and vicious and Ritalin-focused wee-dlyee-dlyee-wee-dees, precision-cut chaos from a harbinger of squeal.
The live show, decidedly garage rock aurally, doesn’t match the more involved, introspective psychedelic sound Jones went for on There Was Lightning. “The album still represents our sound,” Jones says. “But I wrote all those songs at the beach while I was living in California … the next [album] will be more of a group effort in writing the songs.” Jones swings for fences in different eras and genres, rattling off bands and mostly getting it right: Oasis, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Nada Surf, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Louis XIV. “I’ve been a straight-up rock fan my whole life,” Jones says. “It so happens the songs I write lend themselves to that. I have music that’s less fun, so we don’t do those songs live. This stuff is happier. I wanted to go for a more positive message.”
Lightning is a testament to its own genre, a commentary as much as a proclamation. The album-opening “Dig This!” clack-cracks its way into a finger-scorching guitar intro, followed quickly by a shaming of pop music (“How did it come to this?/If that’s what passes for music then dig this!”), followed again by more shredding.
“’Superslow’ is probably the most fun to listen to and play, because it’s 10 minutes long, and because it’s crazy, and I’ve always wanted to make a song like that,” he says, talking about his favorite songs on the record. “Track 3 [“A Familiar Way”] might be the best one. It’s more … revealing about me, talking about personal things. The second verse talks about wanting to leave with nowhere to go, leave and come back with nothing to show. But in the last two minutes, the guy’s found his way.”
As the Jan. 26 Motor City show wears on, the first and only non-musical rock ’n’ roll thing of the night happens: A girl walks up to the stage and hangs a pair of panties on Lawless’ microphone. It doesn’t look like it belongs in front of the nearly stoic, seldom bantering musicians ripping the shit out of their instruments. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what the band’s here for, tonight, at this eastside hole in the wall: to present an audience with a powerful piece of art. During a lull at the beginning, Jones says the only thing that matters at this moment. “We’re Trevor and The Joneses. And we just made a record.”
Goddamn right you did.