East Coast Garage Gods The Judex have always seemed on the precipice of greater success but also saddled with seemingly more line-up adjustments than The Misfits. It’s been a great ride for supporters of these gritty soulsters since late last year when arguably the greatest roster began a prolific stretch with 2020’s “Long Live The Judex“.
That stretch continued with a why-didn’t-our-band-think-of-that “tour” of underground radio stations across the United States which culminated in a great compilation (and the longest Judex release to date), “The Radio Sessions“. Which brings us to the latest Judex record within six month’s time, the raw and glorious “Voodoo MacBeth EP“.
Where Long Live The Judex was moody and introspective, filled with songs about suffering Psychics and culpability in witch trials this album is a lot more fierce, direct and straightforward in tone. Let me start with an apparent sidebar on some theater history, something you might not have anticipated when reading a review about a garage rock band: Did you know, in 1936, Orson Welles directed an all-Black cast in a production of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” called “Voodoo MacBeth”? It was staged in Harlem and was a bit of a success though it also drew protestors. One such protestor actually tried to attack director Welles but cast member and former boxer Canada Lee swiftly decked the man. And how do we know this? Because The Judex saw fit to handily sum up this entire saga in the opening track. I kid you not… the entire sordid saga of this play is explained in less than one minute and thirty seconds of garage-fused, breathless glory. It’s ridiculous and insane. It’s fucking awesome.
Looking at the track times for most Judex songs you wouldn’t blame yourself for assuming they’re speed punk since most songs are quite short. But far from it- these guys have chops. This singer is clearly a guy who knows he can sing. The note on “Big City Sweetheart” is a highlight and a sincere extension of organic blues expression, not any fancy schmancy showmanship.
This release lacks the crisp production of previous Judex releases; I believe this was recorded purposely on analog, even maybe 4-track if the overdubbed guitar solos are any indication. This makes for a very compressed, Stooges-esque delivery at times and truthfully, now and then it can be mildly frustrating here and there. The drum work on “Pagan Heart Serenade” by Alex Beisker is simply stunning- bringing you into this saga of wounded hearts and smiling faces- and seems to drop out in the mix for a few seconds, taking you out of it. The rock God drumming on this EP needs to be recognized; one imagines seeing The Judex live and leaving exhausted for it. A good thing indeed.
The real star in The Judex isn’t the legit impressive singer, actually- it’s the guitarist El Flyin’, one of the first six stringers in a long stretch that organically mixes 70s’ British Metal fury with Psychobilly surf licks and who clearly never ever struggles with it. His solos and deft melody work- the tones on the stirring “Little Iodine” are especially gorgeous- make him a standout among effect heavy lads and finger tapping guitar jocks. The Flyin’ can shred your face off or play you a moving solo without ever thinking like he’s comparing dick size with other players. That’s talent.
Nick Stance stays in the stoic John Deacon mode here, flourishing and uplifting his mates while happily staying in the shadows; his introductory bass lines on the previously mentioned Pagan Heart Serenade are a highlight as is his steady groove on the future classic Big City Sweetheart. This band is tops. For the love of Rock, let’s hope these four stick together. Every track they’ve put out is solid.
The Judex can only go higher now and one assumes they’ll eventually try to tour once sanctions are lifted that would allow that. They have a very entertaining YouTube presence without at all diminishing the sheer intimidating intensity of their sonic output. You’d be wise to get into them now. A very solid EP, we can’t wait to see what they do next, but expect it to be right around the corner. Viva La Judex!