Jim Shepard had a busy recording career despite being pretty well ignored during its trajectory. During the seventies, the songwriter fronted a skewed punk band, not completely detached from the CLE sounds emanating from points north, called Vertical Slit. Purposefully obtuse, the band’s low run recordings did as much for its popularity as the difficult music itself.
As that band broke up and Shepard worked a straight day job, it seems that he didn’t cease writing at all. A succession of work come out during the eighties – again all in small runs. But by this time, Shepard had been embraced by the out music scene in Columbus.
Eventually, he’d form V-3, another vehicle to record in a group setting, even as there were no doubt solo works being configured during the time between Vertical Slit called it a day and V-3 was somehow signed to Warner Brothers’ Records.
It being 1996 at the time of Photograph Burns’ release, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Seattle thing helping to open a spot on WB’s roster for Shepard’s project. Unfortunately, this disc would be the only one issued on a major label.
Listening to Photograph Burns in light of Shepard’s early recordings, it becomes evident that there’s a more straight forward rock thing happening here. Of course, that’s all tempered by his adherence to cheaply recording work. And even amongst some of the calmer, introspective moments across the track listing, “Adam Twelve” cops the chord progressions from a Rollins’ era Black Flag song. Of course, immediately following that offering, it’s back to some more mid paced, skewed rock stuff.
Veering between the pseudo kraut in portions of “End of the Bar” and the quicker paced “Split Dog” there’s still a sonic uniformity in Shepard’s persistent attempt to incorporate some twinkling space sounds into anything he could muster.
A later album surfaced, which did just as much to cement the low brow genius Shepard toted around with him. But unfortunately, during the middle of October 1999, Shepard hung himself. Certainly the event had been preceded by years of writings that hinted at the kind of despair such an act is prefaced by. But in hearing all of Shepard’s recordings, listeners could have very well figured that all of the negative vibes emanating from the songs had drained the songwriter of such violent means. Not true. And while nothing can replace Shepard in a familial sense, his music at least serves as a hearty glimpse into the less popular stratosphere of independent music.