The Baptist Generals - Jackleg Devotional To The Heart

Maybe less angry in concept, it’s still the drunken folk we’ve come to expect.

Label: Sub Pop

Rating: 7

On their critically acclaimed 2003 release ‘No Silver / No Gold’, The Baptist Generals’ Chris Flemmons was all caught up in anguish and boozy tales. Fast forward ten years and the extremely long-awaited follow-up ‘Jackleg Devotional To The Heart’ finds him more on the topic of love. But this is by no means your fantasy love: there are no sweeping romances or happily-ever-afters here. This is love through the eyes of The Baptist Generals.
 
“This one’s written like a comedy / heart enters into a room / inside the insides that you nearly see/inside the insides are not true,” Flemmons remarks on lead single ‘Dog That Bit You’. You get the impression his heart has been crushed and scrapped aside in the same way his first attempt at this album was, back in 2005. And here marks his perplexed welcome into the resulting record’s theme.
 
Swept up in weeping guitars and orchestral streaks, the sound that encompasses these crooned lyrics is very much what you’d expect from The Baptist Generals, with violent jabs of guitar on ‘3 Bromides’ and the chaotic disarray of ‘Floating’ giving an unhinged intensity to it all. Yet, there’s a poignancy to Flemmon’s lyrics that makes them sail above the surrounding wall of noise. It’s a range that extends from borderline comical bluntness on ‘Clitorpus Christi’ (“my God, that trollop was loud”) to more of a dwelling solitude (“I try to make the shape of you, it’s such a shadow in my empty arms”).
 
The way these reflections are structured is rather similar to ‘No Silver / No Gold’ too, staggering between harsh instrumentation and less invasive acoustic numbers. Notably looser is ‘Oblivion Overture’s classical, Fantasia-esque take on earlier track ‘Oblivion’, while ‘Morning Of My Life’ finds a softer side to Flemmons’s nasal vocals, accompanied by little more than soft plucks of guitar. When combined though, these opposing elements transform ‘Jackal’ into a distinctly outright collection of songs. Maybe less angry in concept, it’s still the drunken folk we’ve come to expect. But it wouldn’t be The Baptist Generals without it.