Melody Maker Magazine

Addicted to Love

July 15, 1989

By Dave Jennings, Photo by Stephen Sweet

COWBOY JUNKIES

DOMINION THEATRE, LONDON

“THIS is a song for Elvis, ‘cause Elvis is the King,” says Margo Timmins. This is not a good start; it implies respect for traditional values and accepted icons. But thankfully, Cowboy Junkies’ music still deviates. It hasn’t changed; it’s still based around little waves of accordion, brushed drums and sliding bass. “Blue Moon Revisited”, a haunting ghost of a song, is as much of a sensual pleasure as floating in a cool pool on a hot, sticky day.

Then Margo tells us that she’s been asked a lot of strange questions lately, and dedicates “I Don’t Get It” to someone who’s wondered if she wanted to be a living legend. I’m surprised she’s surprised by such enquiries. There’s something wilfully mysterious about Cowboy Junkies. They’re surrounded by shadows tonight; the lights are low, and in the center of the stage there’s a table topped with a neat cloth and a vase of orchids. Margo perches on a high stool next to it and croons in her distinctive, distant fashion. Sometimes she turns her back on us and watches the band, and then her long mane of hair makes her look like a tamed lion.

Myself, I like the Junkies because they’re the polar opposite of all the blustering bullies that gt glorified in rock. The pathologically masculine likes of Rick Rubin and Ice-T should be forced to listen to this gentleness until they weep and beg for mercy. I love the Junkies’ seductive languor, and find Margo far sexier than Wendy James, just as a caress is more alluring that a grope. But the band, seven-strong tonight, are so undemonstrative that they’re open to any number of interpretations. Some have reportedly seen them as Satanists, to others they’re a tranquiliser. They’re that ambiguous.

Here and now, the main thing that mars it all for me is a certain sameness. They play some new songs, and tell us that a new LP can be expected in the autumn. But the songs in question follow familiar patterns. Maybe the Junkies are getting addicted to their own hit formula. But there are brave moments to counterbalance that concern, like a sensitive reading of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s “You Will Be Loved Again”. Naturally, Margo can’t match O’Hara’s unearthly delivery, but the song’s still a thing of beauty and joy. “Me And The Devil” rushes along like a racing pulse, while retaining the Junkies’ characteristic hushed quality. One new song does break the mould. “Escape Is So Simple” is a vivid country tale of scars and sunsets, kept buoyant by shimmering mandolin. It’s a reminder that Cowboy Junkies’ music can be an overwhelming, hypnotic opiate.

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