Saturday, July 10, 2010

P.M. Dawn: Jesus Wept (1995)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

P.M. Dawn
Jesus Wept
(Gee Street/Island)

With Jesus Wept P.M. Dawn distill their pet sounds so thoroughly that those who prefer the duo's soulful effervescence to their ectoplasmic aura may find songs like "Miles from Anything," "A Lifetime," and "Forever Damaged" antiseptic, not to mention fleshless. It's not that they lack the Cordes Brothers' dreamy vocal meringue, a commodity available here in abundance, but they do lack a reason to exist other than for Prince Be/Reasons and J.C./The Eternal to share the latest results of their not-all-that-transcendental meditation.

Those results include self-congratulatory conundrums like "God said 'I guess you don't know I'm you / because you know the entire 360'," "Everything you do affects me like I'm you because I am," "There you are to kiss me / Must you always live right now?," and "Can you see me? / I'm divinity / and I can mean so much to you." Lyrics of similar mystagoguery befog almost every other song, setting the tone for an album that finds itself adrift on plenary bliss far too often.

Yet sometimes the kooky moments are also hooky. Radio junkies already know that "Downtown Venus" rocks, gimmicky mix and all, and with luck they might also get to appreciate "Apathy ..Superstar!?" and "9:45 Wake-Up Dream," both of which unfold gracefully amid mid-tempo arrangements and melodies that hold on with both hands. But who could've predicted the unpretentiously unplugged eight-minute medley of Prince's "1999," Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," and Harry Nilsson's "Coconut" that ends the album? It’s almost epiphany enough to make the devout forgive the Cordes for never once referring to Lazarus--over whom Jesus wept in the first place.

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