In so many ways, Jonkat sounds like the album Joe strummer might have made if he were still alive, and if he hooked up with a seasoned rocker chick who wasn’t too vain to sound grungy. In fact, what it is is a team-up between guitarist/singer Jon Langford of The Mekons and drummer/singer Kat Ex of The Ex, who, like Strummer, survived 70s DIY punk and emerged on the other side as better musicians for it. “KatJonBand” isn’t always amazing, but it is always rough, imaginative, and challenging.
The album starts with an antiwar anthem with the chorus: “You break it, you buy it, your country, bye bye.” The next standout cut is the fourth track which begins as what sounds like standard chug-a-lug punk, but turns into an extended, grinding jam. It’s not just drinking music, but I’m sure seeing it live, in a bar, is the best way to hear this song. From there, the album gets political again with an anti-colonialism ditty, but this one tries to sound gentler, jumping between love and war (“Colonial power/struggled for hours/I was distracted/when you conquered me”). Bad Apples is the obvious single, a song that’s ready for airplay on rock stations around the country. Perhaps the sound that typifies the album the most is a Bo Diddley beat, raspy Welsh vocals, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs percussion—creating rootsy postpunk. It’s not a sound I’ve quite heard before, sort of
the logical extension of The Pogues into the double-zeros. It’s the kind of experimental rock that makes me want to hear more, and makes me want to root for the band to do well.
Another duet album that came out this year was the second Sunday At Dirt Devil, by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. Like that album, Katjonband couples a rough, gravelly man with a woman who has more range and lung-power. But unlike the other records, Katjonband works very well. This is an album with texture and depth that gets even better on repeat listens. If you’re looking for a CD that has the same song over and over, this isn’t the one for you. But if you want to hear the sound of true artists stretching out, taking risks, and making sounds you’ve probably never heard before, this is for you. I’m giving it my highest recommendation, and I urge all of you to check it out when it drops in September.
And if they tour, I hope I can see them. Are you guys reading this? Comp me!
BONUS COVER SONG: