For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.
JT: Despite the advent of DJs and karaoke, bar bands are still a thing. There’s something elemental about stumbling into a dive, ordering a beer and being subjected to ramshackle jams served up by musicians who set up on the floor; no stage, no light show, just music that hopefully gets wilder as the empty shot glasses mount. At a time when so much we know of musical performance is about elimination of risk, bar-band habitues thrive on the likelihood of mistakes, scuffles and the occasional moment of brilliance. You don’t really know what’s going to happen.
John Wesley Coleman‘s music seems made to be played in bars. Listen to songs from 2017’s Microwave Dreams, and you can practically smell the spilled beer and cigarette smoke. That’s not to say the long-time veteran of the Austin scene is singing about “working for the weekend” or building towns on rock ‘n’ roll (though he has been known to pull out a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns And Money”). Behind the growling garage-rock guitars and stripped-down drums, you’ll find raucous, sometimes funny songs sung by a man simultaneously amused and nonplussed by what the world has shown him.
You have to give props to anyone with song titles like “Jesus Never Went To Junior High,” “Box O’ Donuts” and “Life Is Not Worth Living And Suicide Is A Waste Of Time,” and those are just drops in the bucket of a 15-album solo career; you can dip in anywhere and get about the same taste, like homemade moonshine. But for the full Wes Coleman experience, you need to the see the man live, preferably in a small bar. He might be a ball of punk-rock fire and he might fall over—possibly both. You don’t really know what’s going to happen.