The Original Sins
Bar None is happy to announce the return of The Original Sins to Bar/None Records. Bethlehem is their eighth full length album and it is one of their finest achievements. The album moves the group away from it's signature garage party rock sound for something a little more sinister yet sensitive. The material is actually a collection of songs that singer-writer-guitarist John "J.T." Terlesky has been working on for quite some time. The title "Bethlehem" relates to the band's hometown in Pennsylvania but also has seasonal implications as J.T. muses on the meaning of Christianity, the arrival of the Christ child and Armageddon all in neat crisp three minute songs. The album produced by Ray Ketchem at the Womb (Chocolate U.S.A., Shirk Circus, Melting Hopefuls) is the first for Bar/None since the group's debut album Big Soul in 1987.
Terlesky has also been busy releasing work under the moniker of Brother J.T. that has shown up on Siltbreeze, Forced Exposure, Twisted Village and Drunken Fish. Brother J.T. is capable of creating all sorts of music that has traditionally fallen outside of the Original Sins turf: mind curdling expansive feedback drones(Descent ) intricate self produced pop (Rainy Day Fun ) even a "Sun Ra-esque effort to call a comet down to earth through minimalist repetition and chanted mantras."(Music For the Other Head ).
Of late, Brother J.T. seems to be showing up at Original Sins gigs in the form of a minstrel show preacher. Said preacher can also be heard on the Siltbreeze single "Invocations (Part One and Two)" as well as on the unlisted extra track at the end of Bethlehem. In the context of the Sins, Brother J.T. is "a character" that allows Mr. Terlesky a "safe zone" to unleash some of his inner demons in the name of fine entertainment. With Brother J.T. at the helm the band has virtually reinvented itself, a remarkable accomplishment for a band that has been around for ten years.
"When we started in l987 the Sins were into a kind of Lyres meets Buzzcocks bag", explains Terlesky, "Punk R'n'B with pop hooks and our records mostly reflected our 'Kick out the Jams' style live shows. After a while it became apparent that the MTV generation had little use for such an anomaly- we were in a new game playing by the old rules. Why bash your brains out, hiding behind the guitar and songs like it was a job to be endured, for people who just didn't know where we were coming from? Out of this frustration came a change; shifting the focus from 'giving it up' in a stoic rocking way to internalizing, making the songs matter more to me and hopefully some other folks. So, in a way, Bethlehem is like the unclenching of a fist until its an open hand-we're not quite there yet, but we're working on it."
Production note: Josh Silverman from Shirk Circus played acoustic guitar on "Beautiful Day" and all the guitars on "Sunday Night". A bonus track at the end of the CD "I Wonder" features Brother J.T. in all his evangelical glory.
From the liner notes The Original Sins' "Big Soul" came out just before the rise of the Compact Disc (CD) as the dominant format for popular music. Long Players (LPs) were still king in l987 when the album was originally released. "Big Soul" was designed for the LP format with two distinct programs of music each about seventeen minutes long. Depending on one's mood, the listener could drop the needle on either of two radically different moods swings. Side one was the sound of a soul on fire?unforgiving and railing against itself. This was the full-on-acid-ragin' program and we?ve added three bonus tracks (#1,8,9) which complement the original first side quite nicely (tracks #2-7). The protagonist of side one (who resembles our hero John Terlesky, lead singer and songwriter for the Original Sins) takes an incredible psychic beating and on side two he goes on a spiritual quest, getting in touch with his lysergically abused inner child, reaching out to other members of the human race and that "big soul in the sky' in the process. He ultimately realizes that he does want to live which lead us to the bonus tracks (#l6,17)
I was originally introduced to the Original Sins by my brother Steve who was a friend of J.T. a.k.a. John Terlesky in Bethlehem, PA. J.T. was playing guitar in a '60s psychedelic band at the time but was producing his own stuff under the name of The Original Sins on his home four track. I encouraged him to get behind his own material which he would send me, hot off his home four-track. With Dave Ferrara on drums and .....on bass, J.T. cut some stuff in an eight- track studio of which "Just l4" was undeniably brilliant. Coupled with one of J.T.'s home recordings of "Sugar Sugar," the Original Sins had their first single. The English loved it. Sounds called it "a gas" and Melody Maker gushed, "single of the decade." Alternate mixes of both songs are included here.
With Dan Makinney on keyboards and Ken Bussiere on bass the Original Sins entered the studio to flesh out a batch of J.T.'s material. Big Soul was cited by the New York Times as "one of the best indie rock albums of the l980s." I'm proud to have been involved with these sessions which took place over the Easter weekend of l987. (Perhaps that explains J.T.'s failed attempt at a sermon that closes our program.) I acted mainly as the guy who convinced J.T. to slow the recording process down a hair Big Soul was recorded and mixed in four days. Their next album "The Hardest Way" I believe was done in two. Oh, yeah, I also turned up the reverb on the screams of "My Mother's Mirror." Included here for the first time is "Route 66" - one of those great spontaneous moments. We had a little bit of tape left and J.T. quickly taught the band the song in a jazz arrangement thirty seconds before we hit the record button. It's one of those great loose moments not unlike Alex Chilton's "Flies On Sherbet". You can hear the band learning the song as they go along, and J.T. reinvents himself as a vocalist every two bars or so. The tape ran out before the end but it's perfect anyway.
The Original Sins left Bar/None after "Big Soul" but we hope to release a collection of their work for the Psonik label in the near future as well as a new album in l996. A lot of people think of the Original Sins as a '60s psyche band but I think Big Soul is proof that they transcend that genre and hit something undefinably great in the process. The Original Sins share something with some of the greats: Them, Love, l3th Floor Elevators, Big Star, Velvets, Stooges, and the Replacements. What that is is a direct line from the heart of the singer to the soul of the listener. Be prepared.