Three Johns biography, Three Johns discography , CD Release

Three Johns: Reviews

From: Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide: The 80's, New York, Pantheon Books

The Three Johns: Atom Drum Bop (Abstract import '84). 
I know I have a weakness for demented three-chord rant, but so should you. 
Don't you wish you knew some Americans who could cop snatches of Jimmie 
Rodgers and the Golden Gate Singers and "Don't You Start Me Talking" and 
"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" without imitating any of them? These are 
guys who not only consider it their mission to keep rock and roll "The 
Devil's Music" for as long as the world goes to hell, but who also don't 
want the world to go to hell. They're my favorite new Brits in years. 
Their album was manufactured in France.         B+ 

The Three Johns:  Brainbox (He's a Brainbox) (Abstract import EP '85). 
With its DOR beat and football-disco chorale, the title track of their 
sixth EP since 1983 is a deceptively catchy antiyuppie rallying cry, and 
all three tunes on the Wespecially "Crazytown," the theme song of a hundred 
more forgettable bands are worth hearing twice. This is more than can be 
said of the B fodder on EP number five, Death of a European, soon to be 
rendered altogether extraneous by the appearance of its title track on 
their second album. Anarchism in action? Something like that.            

The Three Johns: Crime Pays . . . Rock and Roll in the Demonocracy: The 
Singles '82-'86 (Abstract import '86). 
The Johns' maiden release, 1982's "English White Boy Engineer', exports 
the U.K. equivalent of Timbuk 3's nuclear science major to South Africa, 
where he blames the bad stuff on the Afrikaners. Great. But in general 
this reminds us that a single is what a cult band puts out when it doesn't 
have enough songs for an album. Some of it is upstanding rant, like "AWOL." 
Some of it, wouldn't you know, is EP-tested, like "Brainbox" and (that 
again?) "Death of a European." And some of it is pure B-side, like the 
beatbox showcase "Two Minute Ape."               B+ 

The Three Johns: The World by Stormn (Abstract import '86). 
Doomy politics, detached declamations, Leeds connection, they're the 
Gang of Three, obviously, and if they're not as smart, so be it. No funk 
crossovers for them, the drums are sure to pick up pattern and accent, 
but their genius is for basic (and unnostalgic) rock and roll of a punty 
rarely heard outside punk, if indeed that's where it's located. This time 
the songs are there, even though the analysis isn't tembly smart either. 
(That ain't America, lads, it's Capital.) And, considering how much good 
smarts did the Go4, maybe we should be grateful it's rancor and sarcasm 
that make them go.        A 

The Three Johns: Live in Chicago (Last Time Round '86). 
Indies cater to collectors, and collectors will buy any old shit. Yet 
this verbatim show isn't just specialist product. The impolite patter 
includes a clarion call for international socialism, and the cover 
Versions are droll if a tad conceptual - T. Rex as the Eagles, 'Like a 
Virgin_ There's half a carload of new songs from a writing machine 
that's already filled two LPs and two EPs since 1985. And if the remakes 
aren't revelations, most of them are copped from album one, which is now 
third in line at the checkout counter.          B +

The Three Johns: The Death of Everything (Caroline '88). 
Descrying the "gothic" tattoo that ID's a cartoon Jon Langford on the 
inner sleeve, I was reminded, invidiously, of his fondness for the  
Sisters of Mercy. The Johns are political jokers, hence not gothic two 
ways. But there isn't a track here as high-powered (or funny, or 
politically efficient) as "This Corrosion," and from the sound Adrian 
Sherwood gets out of "Never and Always," I just know Langford wishes 
there was.                  B

The Three Johns:  Deathrocker Scrapbook (ROIR cassette '88). 
Sloppy on principle, prolific to the point of automatism, they too have 
Outtakes - and how. "Fun and games," maybe. "Some great fun and games," 
not bloody likely.  C+

Chuck Edy: Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe, New York, Harmony Books 1995:

No.: 53. THE THREE JOHNS: Atom Drum Bop

Englands premier posteverything power trio was pissed about all the right 
stuff: Jungle imperialism, emotional fascism screwed-over mineworkers, 
the works. But they were smart enough to be mixed-up enough to know that 
they really didn't know what the heck was going on. And they realized 
that no way are our lives gonna be saved by rock 'n' roll, so they 
flushed the fashion and forewent the pop charts and reveled in hard 
stuff, tendencies that made them seem like cynics in the Philanthropic 
Pop Age, though really they were more metapop than antipop. They could 
sound like Cream with no instrumental training or the Gang of Four with 
a sense of humor or the Moody Blues with male gonads, but mostly they 
did for the Stooges what the Stooges did for Bo Diddley, and they did 
it with a goddamn drum machine. On their least meek (and only 
indispensable) album, alone and left to rot in a dead-wrong world that 
doesn't really want them, they find affinity with the wandering cowhands 
and oppressed true believers of American myth, incorporating sample-like 
snippets of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, the Swingin' Medallions, 
the Golden Gate Quartet, and Bobby Vee, amidst which touchstones these 
feedback-funkers falsetto, growl, refuse to tune up, and swing like 
thumpasauri caught in crosstown traffic. These court jesters may fuck 
around, but at the outset anyway, they didn't fuck around. 

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