If you’re not familiar with David Judson Clemmons, now is time for a change. He’s emerged in various incarnations throughout the years, as showcased in our Artist Spotlight write-up. On Nov. 11, 2016, he’ll emerge once more with JUD, his German-transplanted, L.A.-fueled mode of expression, and its new album, entitled Generation Vulture. As soon as I heard of his intention to make this record last August, I immediately expressed interest in writing a review. JUD’s previous album, Sufferboy, remains one of my favorites, and I felt this one was long overdue. He calls it “an album for the living, an album for the dead.” I call it “my latest purchase.”
JUD isn’t your typical band. The brainchild of a Virginia-born boy who moved to L.A. and saw the ugly underbelly of the glitz and glamour finish, only to pick up and move to Berlin, it’s a gritty, often snarling embodiment of Clemmon’s view of the world. While dark in tone, it has frequently been a vehicle for him to push forward with a sense of purpose or longing. One look at the existing JUD albums show a string of aspirations, with titles such as Something Better, Chasing California, and The Perfect Life, all of which evoke a desire to improve or attain some lofty goal. The last two, however, Sufferboy and Generation Vulture, break from this and show obvious distaste for the state of affairs, whether personal or societal.
Generation Vulture is very much a work of societal criticism. Clemmons, along with his compatriots Steve Cordrey [bass], James Schmidt [drums], Jan Hampicke [acoustic guitar/vocals], and Anne de Wolff [strings/vocals], lay into the listener immediately with the opening track “Blind Society.” I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that track is trying to say. However, the criticisms are rarely stated directly, leaving the lyrics vague enough that I’m sure I’ve already appropriated the group’s condemnations for my own ends. For instance, while I couldn’t tell you precisely what he is referencing, there is failure implicit in the line, “Celebrate; it’s too late,” painfully sung in “Find Us, Heal Us” which is followed with the essentially hopeful “I need my brothers to get stronger.” I could readily apply this, from my own point of view, to the case of civil rights in the United States up through the present day, but I can’t be sure this was Clemmon’s intention. So while dark, brooding, and critical, there are glints of hopefulness that reside throughout this album.
I really like this LP, but it’s different than those that preceded it. For one thing, it contains much fewer songs than any previous JUD release. Generation Vulture only puts forward seven tracks, shorter even when compared to the ten from the ensemble’s first release. However, it features some truly powerhouse-length tunes. The longest, “Humanity, the Lie,” weighs in at over 8 minutes long. What this means is that the listener gets less diversity in music, which might be unfortunate if these lengthier tracks weren’t wonderfully composed. What is also different than the other albums, which might turn a few people off, is that this release is a little less heavy than what we’ve experienced in the past. Their last album, Sufferboy, certainly possessed faster songs than anything featured here, but there is a particular desperateness presented in this release that sits heavy on your mind. In particular, the manner in which the closer, “How The West Was Lost,” is conveyed is quite poignant.
I won’t tell you that David Judson Clemmons and JUD have released their ultimate album with Generation Vulture. Personally, their last two releases, Sufferboy and The Perfect Life, strike my psyche a bit stronger, and the former would be what I would recommend any curious listener. However, their latest release is no slouch, possessing some truly moving works of art which bring a smile. I’m interested in seeing where they goes from here. I don’t believe Clemmons is done trying to change the world. At least, I hope not.
Check out our interview with David Judson Clemmons on Generation Vulture.