The Limes Award for Amazing Goner Release Nobody's Heard
By Maura McAndrew | 13 December 2012
John Wesley Coleman: The Last Donkey Show
Goner records, the super-scuzzy Memphis garage rock label helmed by indie hero Eric Oblivian, is perhaps most famous for nurturing the young Jay Reatard before he moved on to In the Red and Matador. But it’s also a truly independent label that after twenty years of operation is still finding amazing artists on the outskirts of the garage rock/punk scene: quirky, left-fielders who, thanks to the label’s low profile, always feels like an exciting discovery once you get your hands on it. Last year at this time I was raving about Limes, the Memphis band whose reissue of Tarantula! Plus Blue Blood would’ve been my album of the year if it hadn’t been originally (barely) released in 2005 and 2006.
This year Goner has me all fanatical again in my devotion to John Wesley Coleman’s The Last Donkey Show, a record I’ve been listening to since May and loved since first play. It’s the only record in a long time I’ve spent unnecessary money on: having purchased a vinyl copy at a record store, I also paid to download one of the songs (“Flower in the Dark”), so desperate was I to include it on mixes for friends. I’m still thinking about paying to download the whole thing, thus buying it twice. But that’s the allure of The Last Donkey Show, a dubious-looking record with a garish green and orange color scheme, a donkey on the front, and somewhat unsettling song titles like “A Clown Gave You a Baby.” It’s unabashedly untrendy, seemingly out of nowhere, truly fresh and exciting.
The Last Donkey Show is as freewheeling as it gets, pogo-ing through trash-garage (“Virgin Mary Queen”), fever-dream soul (“Animal Bed” and “The Howling”), Elvis Costello- and Beatles-inspired Britpop ( “Hangin Around” and “Misery Again”), and alt country (“Flower in the Dark”). Yet Coleman has that slacker-genius thing going on: it all sounds so tossed off, betraying songs revealed to be finely rendered and clearly thought out. Mainly, I think this thrown-together sense comes from the fact that The Last Donkey Show is a record that truly doesn’t seem to consider categorization; much like Limes, Coleman isn’t concerned with filling a particular niche or being in step with his own time.
And once that pedal steel glides into “Flower in the Dark,” the final and best song, all that I’ve just said doesn’t matter. It blots everything out with its beauty. Buy it twice.