Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jandek: Introduction/Apology

All right. So it’s time to start the letter ‘J’, which means, of course, that I have twenty-seven Jandek records to review.

If you don’t know the man, here’s the quick rundown: he’s been putting out albums since 1978. Up until recently, he had never even been seen- aside from a handful of interviews that proved to be more dumbfounding than enlightening, the only clues about Jandek were contextual. A man whom we assumed (correctly, as it turns out- he showed up to play unannounced in Glasgow last year) was the musician adorned the covers of some of the albums, a red-haired guy, with differing age and facial hair. You could glean precious little from the music itself. No press, no promotion, no shows- at least one creepy album a year, though.

In the past twelve months, a documentary has been released, mostly featuring the thoughts of numerous fans about the Jandek mystique or whatever (as well as an audio recording of the one interview with the man). And, as mentioned, he came out of seclusion and played a show, too.

So there’s what you need to know, in terms of background. The man is an enigma, and the speculation about him is half the fun. In terms of the music itself, hoooo boy.

Jandek records totally put off like 99.9% of the people they get played for- each album (except for the three spoken word albums he did) features guitar either acoustic or electric, occasional drums, which do little to keep a beat, sometimes a bit of harmonica, uncharacteristically traditional in his otherwise choppy musical waters. And the man himself, of course, on vocals, covering the full range of sounds- mumbling, hysterically screaming, crooning, drunkenly yowling.

So as the letter J loomed larger, I thought about the approach I would take to these reviews. If you’re like pretty much everyone, you hate the music- I can’t imagine the reviews being interesting in such a case. The initial thought that I had was to listen to everything and try and get all of my reviews down in one day, post all 27 of ‘em in one shot. That task, though, proved to be too difficult. Even though I’m a fan, it’s been occasionally difficult for me to sit and listen to five Jandek records in a row with any kind of critical ear. So, as a result, my review process has gone on a little longer than I thought/would have liked. I found that I have to get myself into this certain mindset to listen to more than a couple at a time. It’s like at my job- I’m totally the new guy, which means that I’m damned to an eternity of Sunday and Tuesday evenings, the least desirable shifts there are. Tuesdays are fine, but Sundays are the killers, especially the nice ones that I’d rather spend walking around outside with Julie. On those interrupted afternoons, I arrive at work with this sorta grim determination, knowing that I’m going to be the closer even if it sucks, digging the heels in and getting ready.

So here’s the goal: five days of Jandek reviews. Thought I could get it done faster, but it didn’t work out that way. Five days should do it. (I hope so, anyway- I’m well aware that five days of Jandek reviews is pushing it.) If reading these reviews doesn’t interest you, you’ve got a week off before the rest of the alphabet (mercifully) continues. Go get a sandwich or something.

(Just for the record, Seth Tisue runs a fantastic Jandek web page that is completely essential if you have even a passing interest in the man- the address is http://tisue.net/jandek.)

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