On today's episode: Jandek!
"Listen what I say!" That's the bulk of the lyrics on the first track here; yowled in that inimitable Jandek faux ghoul voice. Just wondrous. You know, since I last delved into Jandek last year, I've read a lot of conspiracy theories about the man and the creation of this music, and I have to say, the one that's the most fun is that all of these albums released in the 80's are actually from the late 60's and early 70's. I mean, why the hell not? This music doesn't fit into any logical rock and roll timeline, so why shouldn't it just be assumed that it didn't come beamed in from some other decade? There's a heck of a lot of clattering drums on the first half of this album. Just boom-blap-poppity-ploop-pop-pop-pop!, it feels like at times. Some harmonica, lots o'howlin' by Mr. Smith and it's almost like this is his Bringin' it all Back Home the way it's split down the middle between group and solo recordings. Probably one of the most challenging Jandek albums I've come across, but still endlessly fascinating. Key tracks: 'Rifle in the Closet', 'Starless' and the oddly swelling 'Call You the Sun.'
Jandek — Follow Your Footsteps (1986)
There's obviously someone on electric guitar here that's actually practiced and studied the instrument for more than five minutes because there's actual chords and progressions being played. Some of it would actually rank as Jandek's most accessible music. 'Course, that's accessible in the Corwood sense of the word; most folks would still hear it as absolute nonsense music. But, I dunno. There's a really approachable vibe to these mid-80's records. Still lots of boom-clatter-clashing on the drums, but the inclusion of other vocalists and understandable chords goes a long way for the enjoyment of the listener. This is generally regarded as when the name "Jandek" referred to a band, as opposed to just one guy (even though Mr. Smith is clearly the center of this creative circle). It's a good one! Key tracks: the undeniably moving 'Didn't Ask Why', the surprisingly pretty 'I Know You Well' and the jangly opening instrumental 'Honey.'
Jandek — You Walk Alone (1988)
Still working within that more accessible ideal here, though with a much more pronounced blues rock slant. There's a bit more of a focus on longer form songs here as well, which makes for some interesting moments. I quite like the jangly instrumental opener 'Lavender' and the blues stomp of 'Time and Space' is pretty badass. Probably the prettiest of the Jandek albums I've encountered. Great faux rockabilly guitar tone throughout and, overall, probably the least abrasive of Jandek's early phase. Wonderful stuff; highly recommended as a starting point for Jandek noobs. Key tracks: 'Time and Space', 'Lavender' and the epic centerpiece 'When the Telephone Melts.'
Jandek — On the Way (1988)
Perhaps the bluesiest of Jandek's mid-80's run. The clatter, stomp n'howl of 'Message to the Clerk' and 'Give it the Name' is a shambling, surprisingly coherent one-two punch. Although the rest of the album is much calmer, it still retains the very bluesy philosophy of one guy and his guitar versus the world. This is no clearer than on the stunning closer 'I'm Ready.' Arguably the prettiest song Jandek ever did, it packs an emotional wallop quite unlike anything else I've encountered in the sphere of recorded music. Worth it on its own. Key tracks: 'I'm Ready', 'I'll Sit Alone and Think A Lot About You' and 'Message to the Clerk.'
Jandek — The Living End (1989)
A lot of people consider this the definitive Jandek album (no doubt, this is at least partially because of its mugshot-esque cover photo of Mr. Smith himself). The opener 'Niagara Blues' has a riff so nice, it needed to be played twice — the song is basically repeated with different lyrics on the very next track, 'Janitor's Dead.' Elsewhere, he actually references Bob Dylan and Dusty Springfield by name — which just seems so weird for Jandek to mention something that exists in genuine pop culture. The album takes on a very folky tone in the second half — appropriately so, I might say. Just pretty damned listenable stuff, actually. Very inspirational music. Key tracks: 'Embrace the World Outside', 'Niagara Blues' and the slow burning 'Take Me Away With You.'
Oh, Jandek. How you have captivated me.