GUN CLUB, THE: Ahmed’s Wild Dream (reissue): CD

Ahmed’s Wild Dream (2008) is a reissue of the Gun Club’s hard-to-find album of the same name. Originally put out in 1993—three years before (Gun Club figurehead) Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s untimely death—Ahmed’s equitably culls songs from the Gun Club’s then-current catalogue, spanning 1981’s Fire of Love to 1990’s Pastoral Hide and Seek. The recording on Ahmed’s is of soundboard quality and the group’s performance is amazing. Although the second lineup of the Gun Club (the band represented here—Pierce, Romi Mori, Nick Sanderson, Kid Congo Powers) is often shortchanged by fans, it was of equal artistic stature as the original group—but for very different reasons, namely a maturation in Jeffrey’s songwriting and guitar playing. Simply put, the first Gun Club (1981-1984) and the second Gun Club (1984-1994) were so conceptually and stylistically different from one another that they’re the same band in name only. And it’s the qualities found in the second lineup that naturally stand out on Ahmed’s. Lyrically some of Jeffrey’s strongest material is present—the East Los Angeles recollections of “Lupita Screams” and the anti-imperialism protests of “Another Country’s Young,” the latter an erudite expedition into hitherto unknown subject matter just prior to the release of Ahmed’s. Musically the group is tight beyond belief, but what really stands out is Pierce’s guitar playing, particularly on “Go Tell the Mountain,” a song that has long instrumentation showcasing Jeffrey’s sublime guitar playing. And it’s Pierce’s guitar work that’s the real gem of this album. It’s fucking hypnotic—someone once asked me if Dave Alvin dubbed over Jeffrey’s guitar work from this period; nope: Pierce had gotten that good! There is a slight drawback to Ahmed’s: its well-roundedness. Normally, this would be an asset to a live album, but the early stuff (“Sex Beat,” “Preachin’ the Blues”) seems more like a concession to fans than the Gun Club’s desire to play earlier tracks. The Fire of Love-era songs on Ahmed’s are good, but they’re fucking awesome with the 1981 lineup. And this is probably indicative of Jeffrey’s restlessness: he was always changing, irrespective of trends or others’ desires. Just as I have difficulty envisioning Ward Dotson playing “Another Country’s Young,” there’s a slight amount of cognitive dissonance I feel hearing this lineup play “Preachin’ the Blues.” Nevertheless, Ahmed’s is a strong live album from the Gun Club…. A testament to Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s deserved position as one of Los Angeles’s greatest songwriters.   –ryan (Cherry Red, www.cherryred.co.uk)