Youth Meets Jah Wobble
Acid Punk Apocalypse
Jah Wobble was one of the founders of Public Image Ltd., and was responsible for their dub-drenched, reggae-infused post-punk sound with his massive basslines. Since leaving PiL in 1980, he has carried on as a solo artist, through a variety of collaborations with pretty much everyone under the sun, including former PiL guitarist, Keith Levene, as well as Bill Laswell, Brian Eno, the Edge, Ginger Baker, Natascha Atlas, Bjork, Primal Scream, the Orb, Adrian Sherwood, Julie Campbell, Chaka Demus, Martin Atkins, Massive Attack, Sinéad O’Connor, Dolores O’Riordan, DJ Muggs, and Geordie Walker. Walker, of course, is the legendary guitarist from Killing Joke, and he played with Wobble in The Damage Manual around the turn of the millennium. And the bassist in Killing Joke is Youth, who himself has collaborated with about half of the known universe.
So why it took Wobble and Youth to hook up is beyond me, but here they are. They’re not young men anymore, Wobble is 61 and Youth is not a youth, at 59. And here the old geezers wander on in to show us how it’s done.
Acid Punk Apocalypse is a trip through dub-infused music for the chillout vibe. It’s not really out of place with Wobble’s long, long discography, and he and Youth form a might tandem behind the boards and plugged into their basses. Fleshed out with a band, they are joined by a series of guest vocalists, from Rhiannon to Vivien Goldman, and Alex Patterson of the Orb, with whom both have worked before, stopped by for a track. The results are most excellent.
The album begins with the piano chords of ‘Breaking Shells’ before Youth’s bass steps in and then with the drums doing a 1-2 step, London’s Hollie Cook drops her vocals. Even sitting down, one can’t help but move one’s feet to this beat, and then Wobble’s big, fat bassline arrives, playing a different rhythm than Youth, who forms the rhythm section with the drums. Cook’s vocals are sweet, and at times, this track recalls Morcheeba at their glorious best, at other times it wanders off into newer territory, especially with the reggae-infused drum rolls.
‘Burnt Umber’ is where Patterson makes his appearance, and this sounds like classic Orb, to be honest, from the late 90s, we have ourselves this wicked little retro jam. Whilst Patterson produces and gives us these samples, Wobble’s bass lopes along, grounding the song. If you ever wondered what Youth vs. Jah Wobble vs. The Orb sounds like, it sounds like this.
‘Full Metal Dub’ is one of my favourite tracks, starting with a distorted bassline from Youth before the drums and Wobble’s bass kick in and then a reggae-influenced bass. The track is an instrumental, moving subtly from key-to-key with all those wonderful dub-influenced studio sounds, the occasional echoed drum, the blissed out guitar/keyboard riff. It’s easy to get lost in the bass here, as both geezers are locked in step here.
I am also partial to ‘Chariot Sky,’ another instrumental, which starts with Wobble’s bass, before a syncopated synth riff and brushed drums appear and then what could only be Youth playing his bass as an African guitar. Eventually, a guitar appears, and for six-and-a-half minutes we sit back and vibe on Wobble’s bassline, which pulses and throbs at the core of this track, enjoying the guitars, synth and other surprises.
I would also be remiss not to mention ‘Panzer Dub,’ which is closer to Youth’s wheelhouse, more Killing Joke than anything. With a chugging guitar riff, and a matching bass, we get various dub sound effects, including one that sounds like the Six Million Dollar Man, and then the heavy guitars kick in. So as the guitars chug, so, to, does the bass and drums, and it’s almost like we’re in a Spaghetti Western standoff, the bass, the guitars, the drums, each refusing to break off, a horn comes in to break the tension, and then wanders off, and we’re back in this lockstep groove.
All told, Acid Punk Apocalypse really has nothing to do with acid or punk, but we are currently sitting in the midst of the apocalypse. But rather than stress us, out, Wobble and Youth are here to soothe us, to give us comfort and peace in these scary times. Many thanks, gentlemen.