Harry George Johns - Post-Breakdown Blues

The solo effort is a uniquely evocative set of musical documents.

For most, Harry George Johns will be best known as the ex-bassist of grunge freight-train Dinosaur Pile-Up, distinguishing himself by being the most raucous of an already excitable bunch. Those expecting a rich seam of power-pop from his first solo album will leave disappointed, however. Referencing instead his time in the spine-tinglingly brilliant blues grunge outfits The Old Romantic Killer Band and Wingman, this collection of heart-on-sleeve tracks chronicles, well, a breakdown – as the name suggests.

Soundtracking a train wreck where Johns lost it all – roof over his head, girl, job – ‘Post Breakdown Blues’ is a beautifully cathartic snapshot of the process of emotional healing that comes after loss. ‘Drink Myself To Sleep’ and ‘Tie Your Own Noose’ are exactly as raw and self-deprecating as they sound, but the more upbeat ‘All You Can Do’ and ‘Sleep Is The Cousin Of Death’ are the sharpest. Throwing together major-key melodies wrung through Johns’ classic bluesman delivery and laced with slide guitar licks, the painfully honest “Ellie, you broke my heart” rubs shoulders with a familiar nostalgia; “I’ll be waiting at the place where we first met,” Johns sings “take all my memories, but don’t let me forget.”

Gone is the wry humour of his previous bands, but the warmth remains, emphasised by the admission of flaws and delivered by one of the finest singers you’re ever likely to hear. “I’m a stormcloud myself and all these bars seem the same” he laments in ‘Morning Song’. Closing on ‘Hospital Blues’, the going gets no easier; indeed the final line “you give me those cautious eyes / and I wake up in hospital” could hardly be more stark.

That shouldn’t put you off though – ‘Post Breakdown Blues’ is a uniquely evocative set of musical documents, and this vicarious insight into the troubles of a formerly larger-than-life character like Johns is both humbling and ultimately uplifting. After all, the unspoken coda to this album is that these tracks were recorded full stop – and that Johns continues to write and gig is surely the sweetest ending of all.

Tags: Reviews, Album Reviews

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