V-3-Photograph Burns

November 11, 2008


Photograph Burns (American/Onion 1996)


Rick Rubin’s American label started an offshoot named Onion Records that was run by record collector extraordinaire and Matador Records alumni, Johan Kugelberg. Kugelberg wasn’t given long to establish the label, but the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, V-3 and Brad Laner’s Electric Company weren’t exactly the most accessible acts to invest into during your opening salvo. Personally, I loved all three of these releases although the Stiffs Inc. and God Lives Underwater albums left me cold. Anyway you slice it, the label gave all three a wider stage to exploit during the last days of the major label feeding frenzy of indie rock esoterica and its also-rans.

I really found it kind of heartbreaking that V-3 mastermind and Columbuis, OH icon jim Shepard committed suicide in 1998 because Photograph Burns was the one album where he was able to channel all of his misanthropy and alienation into something conflicted and beautiful. It’s an angry and somewhat hateful album that takes aim at love, friendship and a multitude of betrayals, but avoids the psychedelic ugliness and swaths of noise that masked the bruised heart at the center of his work. It doesn’t hurt that his backing band tears through the punk numbers with a ferocity that finally matched the seething emotions rampant in his previous work. The opener “American Face” may be one of my favorite punk songs of the 90s as it busts through the gates like the MC5 as Shepard rails against American egotism while wishing he could remain in a narcotic cocoon. It’s full of loathing of country and self wrapped in a catchy shambles of a tune that I never get sick of listening to these days.

The slower tunes remind of Smog’s mid 90s work on Red Apple Falls and Doctor Came at Dawn if they were influenced by Chrome and the Killed by Death Series. In fact, Photograph Burns reminds me alot of Chrome’s Red Exposure if you subrtracted the beats and added even more bad intentions. When you trace the steps through his discography, Photograph Burns is even more depressing since his battles with narcotics and depression become apparent. I never knew the man, but his albums make me wish he found some sort of peace in his end because his music is a portrait of a tortured soul who never found any semblance of happiness.

6 Responses to “V-3-Photograph Burns”

  1. Jo Says:

    Hey, I love this record. Totally underappreciated. I read this blog all the time. It’s well written and you have great taste as well. Thanks dude. I just started one of these myself and think some of it may be of interest to you. I’m not that good with computers so it’s slow process. Keep up the good work.


  2. mrowster Says:

    Thanks for remembering V3, I loved em too. Never knew Jim either but oddly I had a brief chat with him over the phone not long after this CD was released; he’d called a record store I worked at, inquiring about a copy of HIGH TIDE’s “Sea Shanties” we had for sale in Goldmine mag. I eventually told him much I dug Photograph Burns, and he sounded honestly surprised, like he didn’t often get compliments.

    Wish he was still around to make more of this kinda passionate, beautiful racket.

  3. smirkbot Says:

    I remember when I first heard this record, starting with the skull-crushing headbutt of “American Face” and then immediately followed by the haunting beauty of “Bristol Girl”. This may be my favorite two song combination to begin any rock record. Jim Shepard certainly created a punk rock masterpiece. Your blog was one of the few hits I got when I searched for any information about V-3. Nice writing, too. Keep up the good work.

  4. Bam Bam Says:

    Johan Kugelberg, ripped off lots of people out in collectorland!

  5. Charles Doran Says:

    The only reason I had heard of this band was because I was sent a promo copy to review in my long-defunct zine from the mid’90s. What a kick in the face the song’s opener was…amazing stuff. Also loved the title track and the glorious, “Hating Me, Hating You.” I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea the man committed suicide. That is really sad as his talent was incredible.

  6. rudy krash n burn Says:

    If only you knew but you do not…….

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