THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Nearly 10 years in the making, The Task Has Overwhelmed Us is the long-awaited fourth volume in The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project series. Conceived in 2006 by the late Gun Club titan’s guitarist Cypress Grove, the project has always aimed to highlight Pierce as one of America’s most fascinatingly influential singer-songwriters of the last century while propelling his outpourings into modern times by placing it in the hands of former collaborators, friends and fans.
Following 2009’s We Are Only Riders, 2012’s The Journey Is Long and 2014’s Axels and Sockets, The Task Has Overwhelmed Us presents stellar interpretations of tracks from Pierce’s Gun Club and solo canons along with fresh works constructed from rehearsal skeletons, previously unheard lyrics, songs only performed live. Taking song ideas without lyrics and words looking for musical settings gave rise to what Grove calls “Frankenstein songs,”
The stellar roll-call features the recurring core including Nick Cave, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, Lydia Lunch, Youth, Jim Jones, Warren Ellis, Mark Stewart, Hugo Race, Cypress himself plus Mick Harvey and J.P. Shilo as The Amber Lights, and even Jeffrey himself from original tapes. These are joined by new bloods including Dave Gahan, Suzie Stapleton, Duke Garwood, Pam Hogg, The Coathangers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Peter Hayes and Leah Shapiro, Humanist, The Walkabouts’ Chris Eckman, Jozef van Wissem, Jim Jarmusch, Chantal Acda and Welsh space-rockers Sendelica with Wonder and Dynamax Roberts. Like Pierce’s beloved jazz, the cast often spill into each other’s tracks.
The mood throughout the 18 tracks is of rare gems crafted with love, respect and the energy of committed fans whatever facet or fragment of Pierce’s unruly muse fires their creative juices. It’s pretty much carved in legend how Pierce roared out of post-punk L.A. brandishing an incendiary genius that flamed in the spotlight for just 15 years before his untimely death in 1996.
Despite the impact of the Gun Club and resonance of Pierce’s back catalogue, his legacy seemed in danger of shrinking to eternal cult status earlier this century, fading against modern blandness yet ever-radiating for a gaggle of core diehards he’d touched with his supernatural muse (quite possibly in a blizzard of chaos).
Then along came London-based guitarist Grove, who’d played with Jeffrey in his final years gigging and on 1992’s Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee & Cypress Grove With Willie Love. Sorting out his loft one day in 2006, Cypress found an anonymous cassette containing bedroom rehearsals for Ramblin’… — “very vague but good enough to work from,” he says. “So I had the idea of asking people who worked with Jeffrey, were friends with him or who simply admired his work to help me complete the songs.”
The Cypress Tape would soon be joined by other unrealized song sources from diverse tapes supplied by key characters in Jeffrey’s life coming on board, including Gene Temesy, who started the Gun Club fan club in 1984 and brought home Pierce’s ‘98 autobiography Go Tell The Mountain, writer-DJ-musician Phast Phreddie Patterson and Jeffrey’s sister Jacqui, who supplied unfinished songs and previously unseen writings she’d discovered after her brother’s death. “The source material for some of the songs was so vague that it could be interpreted in many ways,” says Cypress. “There was no definitive or ‘original’ version. It was like trying to restore a painting where much of the material was missing.” (Lunch’s turning some lyrics from Phreddie’s collection into the scabrous nightmare roll of Time Drains Away, bolstered by Jarmusch on guitar and van Wissem’s medieval lute).
From Gahan’s opening, haunted piano ballad take on Mother of Earth through Lanegan singing Go Tell The Mountain backed by Ellis and Cave (who back Jeffrey himself on Yellow Eyes), Cave duetting beautifully with Debbie Harry again on On the Other Side to Sendelica and Secret Knowledge’s Wonder hotwiring Bad America into caterwauling mayhem mixed by veteran electro-Def Jam producer Jay Burnett, N.Y. rapper Dynamax acknowledging Jeffrey’s hip-hop obsession over the juddering beats.”