The Gun Club “Sex, Murder, Drugs, and Bad Vibes – Live at the Starwood 1981” (2021 Record Store Day Black Friday LP)

For Record Store Day Black Friday in 2021, a previously unreleased live album from the Gun Club – the early punk rock band led by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce – was issued in a limited run of 2,000 gold-colored vinyl copies. Sex, Murder, Drugs, and Bad Vibes – Live at the Starwood 1981 was recorded at the titular Hollywood club on January 20th of ’81.

This live show took place before the release of the Gun Club’s 1981 debut album Fire Of Love. The show was performed by the lineup which recorded that album, which was comprised of Pierce, guitarist Ward Dotson, and former Alice Bag Band members Rob Ritter (bass) and Terry Graham (drums). (Contrary to what the Record Store Day website states, this should not be confused with the original lineup which included Kid Congo Powers). The Starwood Club in Hollywood was known as a venue which helped to launch the careers of many heavy metal and punk bands between 1973 and 1981. This show was performed five months before the club was closed down by the city of Los Angeles.

Among the 11 tracks are seven selections from Fire Of Love, and four which later turned up on the band’s 1982 sophomore album Miami. Pierce and company were playing “psychobilly” and “punk-blues” long before those terms were even coined. Pierce drew inspiration from blues, folk, and country genres before other punk rockers began to venture into that territory.

This album is at least the third recent Record Store Day release which documented an early live show from the Gun Club. This may be an exciting development for fans of the long-deceased Pierce and his long-defunct cult band, but Sex, Murder, Drugs, and Bad Vibes is strictly for the die-hards. While none of these recent RSD Gun Club releases have had good sound quality, this one sounds much too distant and muffled. Listening to this record is like standing outside of the venue during the show and putting your ear to the wall, or to a window at best. Although Pierce’s deranged persona manages to penetrate that wall, it’s hard to discern much more beyond the basic rhythms. “Black Train”, “Sex Beat”, and the particularly nihilistic “Jack On Fire” come through the clearest, but still – Sex, Murder, Drugs, and Bad Vibes mostly comes across like a shoddy, disposable bootleg.

The Gun Club “Sex, Murder, Drugs, and Bad Vibes – Live at the Starwood 1981” (Blixa Sounds ETA 878) 2021

Track Listing:

1. Devil In The Woods
2. Fire Of Love
3. Bad Indian
4. Black Train
5. Jack On Fire
6. Promise Me
7. Preaching The Blues
8. Sex Beat
9. Ghost On The Highway
10. Goodbye Johnny
11. Sleeping In Blood City