Jack Yarber sure knows his way around three chords. Since the days on Johnny Vomit and the Dry Heaves through the Oblivians, Jack-O has traveled the muddy road of lo-fi punk/garage/fuzz sludge for some time, and not without a considerable influence on his peers. The Disco Outlaw, his third set with the Tennessee Tearjerkers, finds the Memphis semi-icon still bringing it home as raw as possible, but with a more blues, melodic tinge to many of the songs. He hasn’t mellowed, just aged.
Gritty, guitar-driven mayhem is the default position here, though there are touches of rockabilly (“Switchblade Comb,” a cover of the instrumental classic “Scratchy”), and Stonesy blues riffage (“Blood Bank Blues,” “Crook For Your Look”). Lyrically, Yarber keeps the focus on whimsical squalor, a wry, resigned fatalism that gives extra muscle to more sonically familiar fare like “Walk of Shame” and “Sweet Thang.” In all, the guitar playing is focused and damaged, and the vocals simmer at just the right jaundiced temp; Jack-O has always managed to make sloppy beautiful, and here he puts all that wayward wisdom to sharp use.
The Disco Outlaw will appeal to O-Heads and critics, and hopefully his sweaty live act will help some of it may trickle into the cups of new fans. Jack-O works on the fringes and brings fans to him, rather than the other way around.