There Comes the Lord
There Comes the Lord
Forget about Kermit the Frog's emerald-tinted angst, it's not easy being Joey Cook. The erstwhile multi-instrumentalist and songwriter known for his work with Cincinnati Indie Pop crew Pomegranates has long been stockpiling songs and ideas for solo projects, but with the completion of his very first full-length album, There Comes the Lord, he found himself in the midst of a slight identity crisis.
Cook couldn't release the album under his given name since that had already been claimed on Bandcamp by last year's seventh place finisher on American Idol. He considered using his proper first name but there was the risk of confusion with local R&B/Hip Hop sensation and 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards New Artist of the Year nominee Joseph Nevels, aka JSPH. In the end, Cook chose to adopt the creatively misspelled moniker Joesph as his solo banner.
Although There Comes the Lord is largely Cook's true solo construction — his Pomegranates bandmate Isaac Karns appears on the quivery reverb '60s AM Pop of "Jesus" and the epic and sprawling closer "Spirit of the Lord," and his sister Alisa provides vocals on three tracks, but otherwise it's all Cook — he has fashioned a band, including Pomegranates bassist Pierce Geary and ex-Kickaways guitarist Devyn Glista on drums, which he's dubbed Joesph in order to play the new album as well as other material he's written.
According to Cook, last Saturday's intimate release show at White Whale Tattoo in Walnut Hills was a rousing success, and the album is already generating online sales.
As for the album itself, There Comes the Lord is a marvel of influence, invention and translation. Cook blends a brilliant evocation of ’60s and ’70s Pop and Rock with a thoroughly modern Indie Rock ethic in a raw and immediate home recorded atmosphere that serves as the soundtrack for an intriguing concept.
Cook, who self-identifies as Christian, has created a song cycle that imagines what it might have been like to stand in the presence of the physical manifestation of Jesus in the Godspell/Jesus Christ Superstar era that spawned a generation of long-haired believers who came to be known as Jesus freaks.
The difference is that Cook doesn't attempt to contemporize his message in an effort to appeal to millennials, nor does he use There Comes the Lord as a pulpit to proselytize and ultimately convert. He merely tells this interesting story in a wonderfully musical, lyrical and compellingly listenable manner.
The album begins with the title track, which comes into focus through a gauzy haze of moody Synth Pop melodicism as Cook intones quietly, "Oh, the Lord, He's right here, He's right here," until the song's midway point when it explodes into a propulsive mash-up of the Polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips. At the song's conclusion, "There Comes the Lord" returns to the relative calm of its introduction, but Cook maintains his blissful church choir perspective from beginning to end
On "Jesus," Cook offers up a twisted Curt Boetcher/Association/’60s sunshine Pop flashback with a reverbed Byrds undertone - they are the band that originally noted Jesus was just alright, after all - as well as a uniquely modern revelatory lyric ("He showed me some shit I never knew before He came..."). And "Jesus" morphs buzzingly into the compelling Psych Folk Pop of "Wind Hovering Over Water," which quivers with the lysergic introspection and melancholic portent of the last iteration of The Monkees, when the quartet wanted to be Rock mystics and Mickey Dolenz had dibs on the shamanic frontman role.
Cook's ’70s evocation comes to a crescendo on the album's final four tracks; the gentle Harry Nilsson-meets-Velvet Underground warble-and-strum of "At a Well," the Kinks go-go cage dance of "My Master's House," and the Bowie demo snippet of "The Rolling Stone." It's all reminiscent of that magic time four decades ago when bands' theologies could easily co-exist with their musicologies, and the results could be spectacular.
Cook saves spectacular for the big 12-minute finish of There Comes the Lord. "Spirit of the Lord" opens with a Floydian synth drone/march and the imploring lyric, "Master, why did you let them take you?" which quickly erupts into the kind of organized chaos that Alice Cooper orchestrated to perfection, which leads to a Beatlesque "Blackbird" homage which in turn devolves into a Brian Eno soundscape, trembling on the surreal edge of perception.
And with that, There Comes the Lord is over all too soon. Cook has said that he's got at least a couple of albums' worth of albums stockpiled in his archive; if that material is anywhere near as engaging and mesmerizing as There Comes the Lord, Joesph could be gearing up for one of the most thrilling and provocative solo careers to emerge from a Cincinnati band in quite some time. Good news indeed.
-Brian Baker for CityBeat