St James & The Apostles are backstreet heroes, pockets full of dimes and cheap drugs, on the make and on the lam. These aren’t your tortured heroes though; these saintly boys enjoy moonshine and carousing.
St James & The Apostles music is built on the throb of Mike Kiker’s keyboards and the hearty grunt of Jamie Mahon’s guitar, who also sings with a tortured blues holler. By the time you add Jeff Castner’s drums to the mix the result is a clamouring melee of rock ‘n’ roll straight from the old school. Music caked in sweat and reeking of smoke. What makes St James & The Apostles really interesting though is when you wipe away the dirt with your sleeve, what remains is something far more interesting. For their music houses a cracked, warped spirituality, the tone of the keys coming straight from the church down the way, and Jamie’s lyrics often broaching the big issues in life.
Their new album is called White Devil and captures a band in heady momentum; fighting fit, well toured and bawdily provocative. This is a band that scraps on its own territory but has made substantial inroads into the outlying turf of funk. It’s less of a shit-kicker than it’s predecessor Via Dolorosa, and tweaks a dial that occasionally broaches a mutant brand of acid latin. White Devil at least has a certain Spanish flavour to it at times.
‘Golden Axe’ staggers with a lob sided gait of a smashed priest ascending the stairs in a haunted house. “…and I bring it on home to you” warns Jamie, threatening the carnage to come. Powered by a dirty riff and overflowing with bump and grind, it starts the album as the most traditional St James number.
‘Valley Down Below’s organ led thrift store funk is a 90s Beastie Boys jam or Beck single, rubbed with soul. This song takes us into the new sounds explored by the band over the course of White Devil.
‘Kensington Time Killers’ is a shotgun blast to a wooden outhouse, a gold prospector thrown through the saloon window, a straight up head kick of a song.
‘Evil Get Behind Me’ is a prime slice of their old-time religion boogie.
‘Devil Make Due’ is a slowie, with tinkling keys like a Schiffrin soundtrack. Frankly it’s filth. Extending over five minutes it would sound perfect on top of a Breaking Bad montage.
Title track ‘White Devil’ pitches an audition for the job of house band in the bar in From Dusk Til Dawn.
Meanwhile, ‘Signed, DC’, a Love cover, is the closest to the haunted blues of their debut Baphomet, aching harmonica and stunted piano.
‘El Chapo…’ bursts under a lascivious chorus and kicks up a percussive heavy party with the tequila flowing and the senoritas full of sauce. Cooked up with a totally topical taste.
‘With Love, Robert Evans’ is an oddball acoustic closer, a little Kinks-ish.
St James’ releases are getting lighter and more accessible without sacrificing the sleaze. They still sound like wine chugging debasers, but their music increasingly ripples with crooked smiles.