Let’s assume for a moment that you have no idea who Jeffrey Lee Pierce is, even as Iggy Pop intones his name at the start of “Nobody’s City.” That you never heard of Pierce’s Gun Club post-punk band, or that perfect slice of 1980s lover-man nihilism of his called “She’s Like Heroin to Me.”
Let’s just assume you’re listening to “Nobody’s City” because you’ve heard of Pop, and of Nick Cave and Thurston Moore. It’s still rains down like a thunderstorm of blows, from Moore’s squalling guitar to Pop’s death’s-door quaver. And that’s just the opening verse.
When Cave joins in on the chorus, it’s as if death’s cold hand has closed around your heart. Then there’s guitarist Moore’s tangled turn alongside Pierce himself, which boils over like an old muscle car engulfed in a cloud of black motor-oil smoke.
OK, about Pierce, who suffered from multiple AIDS-related ailments before dying in 1996 at the age of thirty-seven: His work has been the subject now of a series of tribute albums under the heading The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project, the latest of which was released this week as Axels and Sockets.
The project doesn’t just pay tribute to him so much as expand his legacy by building new music off of Pierce’s leftover demos, riffs, lyrics and song sketches. Debbie Harry, Primal Scream and Mark Lanegan are also featured on Axels and Sockets.