Axels and Sockets is the third and final volume of the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project series. If you haven’t been keeping score, the project was started by Pierce’s old friend Cypress Grove after finding a cassette of the dead-too-soon Gun Club singer’s unfinished sketches, with the intention of having Pierce’s friends, influencers and influencees bring the songs to fruition. Axels and Sockets features a lot of the usual suspects from previous volumes (Mark Lanegan, Deborah Harry, Nick Cave and many other Bad Seeds past and present) but it also makes a concerted effort to bring the next generation into the fold by including relatively new British acts Honey and Black Moth (both at the behest of British rock scribe Kris Needs). Honey give The Gun Club’s “Thunderhead” a NY Dolls-ish gutter-punk attack, while Black Moth bring a surprisingly metallic level of bombast to “Just Like A Mexican Love.” Interestingly, both bands are led by female vocalists. In fact women are well represented here, with nine of eighteen songs featuring female leads. It shows just how malleable Pierce’s songs were. Opener “Nobody’s City” fleshes out a skeletal Jeffrey Lee Pierce guitar riff into a full song featuring some heavy hitting names (Iggy Pop, Kid Congo Powers, Nick Cave and Thurston Moore). These days Iggy maintains a pretty adversarial relationship with on-key singing, but the song is spirited enough that you can forgive him. It’s Iggy Pop for chrissakes! Other highlights include Primal Scream sounding better than they have in a decade on Andrew Weatherall’s dub-electro remix of “Goodbye Johnny,” Nick Cave and Deborah Harry’s tender duet on “Into The Fire,” and former Bad Seed Hugo Race’s darkly enthralling “Break ’em Down.” All in all, it’s a varied and effective tribute to a great talent. Buy it.
Oh, and bonus points are in order for the great painting of Pierce on the back cover by Mekons singer Jon Langford.