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Jerome Deppe and Gentlemen Obscura - Showtunes For The Damned

Showtunes For The Damned is an impressive graphic novel and CD package by Jerome Deppe and Gentlemen Obscura. Jerome Deppe has been a longtime musical collaborator of David E. Williams, and Showtunes For The Damned is his fourth solo release. Deppe's lyrics which provide the narrative of the book offers a psychological sketch of the disenchanted and the alienated, disillusioned with religion that is impotent, parents that are abusive, leaders that are plain corrupt. In short, Showtunes For The Damned is a damning indictment of contemporary living.

Naturally the accompanying music is unremittingly gloomy, Deppe has crafted an oppressive, claustrophobic sound from acoustic and electric guitars, with lumbering basslines and tight lead fretwork. Ominous electronics are used to underscore the atmosphere, to which Deppe lays down his sullen and sullied vocals. Occasionally Showtunes For The Damned picks up on an eighties post-punk sound, as an accompaniment to Deppe's mournful, bitter and desolate vision. Don't expect it to be fired by the jagged angst of Gang of Four or records by The Pop Group, Deppe's tapping into the austere bleakness of early Cure and Joy Division records. Showtunes For The Damned also shares something of an affinity with the dark humour of David E. Williams who guests here, along with Thomas Nola (of et Son Orchestre) and Lloyd James of Naevus.

'Purgatory For Dummies' sets the tone for Showtunes For The Damned with its heavy lumbering bass lines, rippling and spiralling guitar and subtle electronic effects. Thomas Nola guests with additional vocals accompanying Deppe's morose delivery on this tale of alienation. Light finger picked guitar features on the following track 'Rose Madder (Again)' but the tone remains solemn as Deppe in a detached treated voice tells of neglected children forgotten and confined to poverty, ignored by an uncaring God.

Lloyd James of Naevus guests on the wonderful 'Salvation The Lesson'. With its acoustic strum and stroppy bass lines lead by the distinctive tones of Lloyd James it falls squarely into Naevus territory until Deppe steps in to share the vocals on this murderous vignette, characterised in the accompanying book by images of Adolf Hitler, Catholic figures and paintings of Christ.

More Christian iconography appears on 'The Revelation of John', alongside images of Charles Manson and assorted Manson family members, portraits of the uppermost echelons of the Nazi party, and Malcolm X. 'Is that all there is?' Deppe repeatedly asks on 'The Revelation of John', featuring a heady concoction of Manson and Third Reich samples over plodding bass and buzzing guitar chords, with religious chanting added to the later verses. Deppe's deadpan response, "Then let's keep dancing, let's break out the booze and have a ball", may well be a comment on there over use in industrial culture or even popular culture which has rendered any effect that their images may impart as being impotent.

The opening moments of 'Misanthropic Love Song' are drenched in discordant sounds before it surges onwards with a post-punk greyness reminiscent of The Cure with its pop keyboard melody and Deppe's delivery drenched in effects. Likewise 'The Broken Promise' recalls the stark guitars of The Cure circa Seventeen Seconds before it is drawn into a languid atmosphere thick with electronics.

'Lost At Sea' is delivered in a spoken voice, its revengeful intent couched in a delicate piano score, with accompanying melodic harmonies and spiralling and buzzing guitar. A similar vocal approach is employed on 'Nightshift', a darkly humorous tale of a patrol man with the ability to ransack your innermost and darkest thoughts delighting in your "predilection for Asian girls" while playing the castanets in his lunchtime. The homely tones Deppe delivers these in only make them all the more sinister.

David E. Williams might rank as an unlikely candidate for vocal harmonies but that he does on 'Poison Mushrooms'. His gentle la-la-la's shadowing Deppe above a mournful melody, as they sing of the "patron saint of hopeless cases". Segments of the final speech from the Reverend Jim Jones run as he presides over the revolutionary suicide of his Jonestown congregation in the Guyanan jungle.

The accompanying 150+page book illustrates the lyrics in panels with super imposed, occasionally pixelated images with garish colourisations. The visuals featuring pictures of high ranking Nazis, mass murderers, misguided prophets, freaks, murder victims, impoverished children side-by-side with images of broken cemeteries, dilapidated buildings - the musicians and numerous works from the artist - only accentuate the bleakness Showtunes For The Damned conveys.

Showtunes For The Damned was three years in the making and is an accomplished piece of work from this painter, photographer and musician. Its unremitting bleakness makes it hard to recommend but limited to a mere 75 signed and numbered edition copies it shouldn't last long. For more information go to www.jeromedeppe.com