Jon DeRosa: A Wolf in Parent's Clothes
‘A Wolf in Preacher’s Clothes’ is one of those records that will end up in several people's Top Tens by the end of this year. It will surely pick up trophies and other accolades too. But where the hell has this Jon DeRosa chap been? He just seems to have literally popped out of the woodwork.
Well, let me tell you, he has been around a bit, and he has had in some ways a difficult life Born on the 21st of December 1978, Jon DeRosa was raised in the small shore town of Manasquan, New Jersey. He grew up idolizing Glenn Danzig, and in his early teens studied both classical and flamenco guitar and also memorised the entire output of 4AD and Projekt Records. Then he began writing and recording his own music, and became involved in a Goth/folk outfit called Dead Leaves Rising, but, despite various accolades, it disbanded in 2002. It was during this period that DeRosa lost nearly all his hearing in his right ear, but this didn't stop our hero and the aural hallucinations he suffered as a result spurred him on to form Aarktika, a mostly instrumental band. He was also involved in a few other groups including Pale Horse and Rider and also sung in an opera. In 2011 he released his first offering under his own name in the guise of an EP titled ‘Anchored’, and here we are now with DeRosa's first solo album, 'A Wolf in Preachers Clothing'.
You can definitely hear the Danzig influences straigh away. I read somewhere that there was a haunting similarity in DeRosa’s work to Echo and The Bunnymen, and when you read the other influences to grip our hero it comes as no surprise to see listed Ian McCulloch there alongside the likes of Sinatra and Morrissey. His wonderful baritone voice glides through each track on this awesomely diverse set of songs.
There is a great moment for example at the start of 'True Men' which reminds me of late 50's or early 60's doo wop. There is the guitar work inside 'Snow Coffin' that recalls Bunnymen. The start to 'Who Decides' is almost in line with a Dexy's moment. They are all very different from one another, but they all have one thing cohering them together and that is the smooth, warming voice of DeRosa.
Sometimes during the first few tracks I thought that this might all end up sounding a bit cheesy, so sweet and perfect was the singing, but it doesn't. While keeping the listener hooked with the brilliant melodies, Jon DeRosa keeps himself in the real world lyrically with stories based around the world of boxing, the life experiences of big industry and tales about boys hanging out under street lamps.
'Birds of Brooklyn' is the opening number, and begins with a manual worker finally taking his pay and making his way home via the corner store to no doubt pick up some smokes. Only a couple of lines in and the first time I listened to it I had images in my head of 1940's Brooklyn as portrayed in in a gangster movie at a time when “men were men.”
There are other treats as well such as 'Teenage Goths' which, whilst starting with an undeniable lean towards McCulloch, then suddenly kicks into something that might have been recorded by the Shirelles or Shangri-Las. 'Tattooed Lady's Blues' is a fantastically sad tale warning us all that “There's a price to be paid for the foolish games we've played.” 'Ladies in Love' has a gorgeously melancholic violin/cello drifting in and out, while the tender 'Hollow Earth Theory' has twinkling guitar, cello, violin, melody and backing vocals that leaves you with no doubt that you're will soon be flipping the play button o hear it again.
One of my favourite tunes of all time is a 60's Northern Soul track by the Exits called 'Under the Streetlamp'. This Jon DeRosa album reminds me of that. He creates a similar strong vision of a time when things were hard but they got on with it. This album is rich with that kind of vibe, but it also describes other emotions in life such as the tribulations of love and jealousy, all of which is sung brilliantly from start to finish by Jon DeRosa.
If like me you enjoy this, you'll be looking forward to spring as there will possibly be another new album. and hopefully there will also be some dates which will bring Jon DeRosa to Europe.