Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) steers us on to September, penning a thoughtful essay on Red Red Meat’s Jimmywine Majestic. Originally released on Sub Pop in 1994, Jimmywine Majestic was reissued on the acclaimed Jealous Butcher imprint in late 2015 as a double LP.
The product of a band that would eventually morph into the experimental indie-rock outfit Califone, Jimmywine…, more polished and assured than Red Red Meat’s debut, is driven by songwriter Tim Rutili’s “impressionistic lyrics hovering over twangy steel guitars, thick fuzzbox riffs, and barroom drums.”
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About Eric D. Johnson
Eric D. Johnson is Fruit Bats. And Fruit Bats is back.
Fruit Bats’ sixth album Absolute Loser represents a triumphant return to name, form, and self. Despite implications, its title refers to the furthest depths of loss itself, rather than the state of those who have lost something. It’s the most honest, most confessional album of Fruit Bats’ career.
Johnson draws from deeply those personal experiences, yet Absolute Loser encapsulates universal themes and emotions. While “My Sweet Midwest” could be taken completely literally, it addresses the holistic nature of finding your center during turmoil. “Baby Bluebird” stings in its portrayal of losing what you never really had. Album closer “Don’t You Know That” is about picking yourself up, even when no one seems to care how far you fell.
Musically, Absolute Loser retains the same structural pop elements that made Fruit Bats so beloved in the first place. Its simple sounding melodies belie such thick musical textures, as some tracks incorporate up to 10 guitar tracks layered on top of each other. Johnson also hearkens back to his days teaching banjo at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, and that instrumentation adds a folksy, Americana spirit to record.
About Jimmywine Majestic
In 1993 Red Red Meat released its first record for legendary Seattle label Sub Pop, Jimmywine Majestic. Building on the grungy roots of the band’s self-titled debut, the second album was more confident and refined, with songwriter Tim Rutili’s impressionistic lyrics hovering over twangy steel guitars, thick fuzzbox riffs, and barroom drums.
Produced by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, That Dog, Sunny Day Real Estate), the record finds the band (Rutili, Brian Deck, Glenn Girard, and Tim Hurley) moving away from the thrashing noise of the first record into more nuanced territory, maintaining its menacing swagger but injecting more space into songs like Moon Calf Tripe and Lather, swinging harder on opener Flank and the anthemic Ball, and pushing into blues and reconfigured roots rock with Dowser andComes.
Much of the album’s classic feel was informed by bands like the Rolling Stones and the Faces, a “favorite kind of music for Tim Rutilli,” says drummer and organist Brian Deck. “It was his writing that pulled things in that direction, and it was probably his writing and ambition to be different from that that ultimately drove [the band] toward being esoteric and experimental,” eventually morphing into Califone in the late ‘90s.
Informed by classic rock and blues, the album also benefits from Deck’s musical training and approach. While Red Red Meat’s other efforts, their self-titled debut in 1992, 1995’s Bunny Gets Paid, and 1996’s There’s A Star Above the Manager Tonight found Deck splitting his focus between production and performance, the drummer focused on Jimmywine Majestic from a player’s perspective. The record was the work of an invigorated, young, and hungry band.
“I remember [the album] mattering more to me than anything else in the world when we were doing it,” Deck says. “It’s a sensation that you have as a young artist. You tend to not have that the older you get. But it was the most important thing that had ever happened to me in my life when we were working on it. That was an awesome thing.”