Review Review: Jandek!

Happy Thursday, everybody! Today on Review Revue we’re going to go in-depth and investigate KCMU’s reaction — over 8 years — to one of the world’s most prolific recording artists. No, not Elvis, silly! Not Henry Burr, either! It’s Jandek! “Who the eff is Jandek?” you might well ask. That is actually a surprisingly difficult question to answer, but for now let’s just say he’s a guy from Texas who has released close to 50 albums (well over 50 if you count live albums) over the past 30 years. And while we don’t have all of them for some reason, we do have quite a large number, especially considering the relative infrequency with which his music is actually played on KEXP. We have 11 Jandek albums on vinyl alone, and hopefully at least a few more recent ones on CD. And in the spirit of excess that seems to have inspired Jandek’s quixotic recording career, today I will bring you the KCMU staff’s reactions to every one of those albums. Strap yourself in, baby! It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.


Telegraph Melts (1986):

“This guy must be incredibly insane, either that or a hell of an actor. The music’s real minimal and by technical standards, ‘bad.’ Some of it’s incredibly heartfelt (or so it seems). 80% of this record is complete genious [sic]. It fails when Jandek allows his guest singer to take over. (Sorry I don’t know her name, there’s no credits.) I’ve read that he’s got something like 10 LPs out. [Actually this was his 13th, although seemingly the first to make it all the way to KCMU.] All are small pressings (300-700) so they’re pretty rare. Also, this must be his 1st record with drums and a guest singer. Maybe it’s his attempt at going commercial. All I know is ‘You Painted Your Teeth’ sends shivers.”

“You think it’s good right?”

“Sorry, Mark, but this record deserves no more than 1 word: ‘NOPE.'”

“‘Gov. Rhodes’ is cool cos he was a 4-time gov. of Ohio who is about as crusty and doughy as a ‘publican can git. What an ode . . .”

Follow Your Footsteps (1986):

“This is Jandek. Real folky, but kind of twisted. Maybe ‘cuz he lives in Texas. You know Roky Erickson and Red Crayola. Anyway, this record is basically guitar and some percussive banging with Jandek singing on most cuts.”

“The only reason I hesitate to ask for H is the strong similarity of all the tracks. But then I suppose that is the point. Tru story for ya — I went to high school with a kid who looks just like him. He was an authentic nutcase. He was busted for threatening to kidnap his english teacher’s kids because he got a D- on a paper. He also slept with a chainsaw. I swear it’s true. He is currently attending the Univ. of Wash.”

“Yeah?!? We had a guy who put bombs in people’s lockers just powerful enough to burn off their eyebrows. Last time I saw him he was dressed up in the costume you wear to a fox hunt while in Safeway. He was carrying a whip. I booked out of there pronto. P.S. This guy (Jandek) is obviously twised too.”

“Is that the guy on the kill ugly pop cover?”

“This has some very harrowing songs — like geysers and aching hearts. Painful like Syd at times. Buddy HOlly slowed down and manic.”

“Kinda ‘Beat Happening’-ish, like, stuff but I would say somehow ‘better’? I like it anyhow . . .”


Modern Dances (1987):

“Folk/Delta blues-sy minimalism from Houston, with acid guitar and vocal trade-offs between what sounds like a mid-60s Grace Slick and a subdued Copernicus, both providing an ethereal sound that seems to be somewhat of a put-on.”

“This outfit has a vision all their own. A rather unique outfit too.”

“‘Painted My Teeth’!!!”

“Yes!”

“‘Yawn . . .'”

“Hand for Harry Idle!”

“Carnival Queen is fairly amazing.”


Blue Corpse (1987):

“Oh my, it’s HIM again. And guess what? It sounds like Jandek too. Sparse guitar and percussion with vocals.”

“Why do all of these songs sound the same?”

“‘Cuz it’s Jandek and he writes real odd songs. For Jandek this is mighty slick production and sounds better than the Sudden Howard record.”

You Walk Alone (1988):

“Jandek gets better production with each disc. He’s the child of Robert Johnson and the Fall. His uncle is Lou Reed and brother is Thurston Moore. Jandek grooves.”

“Yes, he does!”

“The press release says you can get 25 assorted Jandek discs for $60. WHAT A DEAL!!”

“Name one other KCMU artist who releases 3-4 LPs a year and lands them all in M. NAME ONE. NAME ONE.”

“Prince.”


On the Way (1988):

“The prolific JANDEK strikes again . . . this time in LIVING COLOR. These songs are ever-wandering, schitzophrenic R&B & folk. they always seem ready to dissipate, but are held together by magical mystery JANDEK magic glue. I dug ‘I’ll sit alone and think a lot about you.’ One of the lyrics is ‘I don’t engage in anything but hangin’ around.’ Hmmmm.”

“There is a 1983 release [Your Turn to Fall] with color cover.”

“I wonder if Jandek meant the same thing by ‘On the Way’ that Billy Bragg meant by ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forward’?”

“Jandek gets down on ‘Give it the Name.'”


The Living End (1989):

“At times ultra slow & mellow. Then other songs are slow & noisy or bluesy. L? A keeper. Try the cut in a hush side 2. No polished sound, no problem.”

“Sweet tribute = ‘Janitor’s Dead'”

“Jandek!! My man.”

“He’s my god!”

“Mine too.”


Somebody in the Snow (1990):

“Experimental country?? Actually kinda cool – very interesting. Beyond that I really don’t know what to think . . .”

“Perfect.”

“Unpleasant in the extreme. Does he make any money out of this?”

“JANDEK IS DEAD!”

“Well, then does his estate make any money out of this?”

“What proof do you have that Jandek is dead? Could you write down what you know about him?”

“The absolute best Jandek ever. The production excels and we’re introduced to another side of Jandek . . . the harmonica!”


One Foot in the North (1991):

“Jandek: The man. The machine. The myth. 1-4 rocks. These songs come from a place few dare look.”

“That’s because their fathers don’t print, produce and fund their recording efforts. Jandek once sent 50 copies of his albums to a little old radio station in the middle of Colorado. Why? Because ‘there was no room left to store them.’ I like a couple songs here, 1-3 & 2-2.”

“If this is what comes from there, is it any wonder few dare look?”


Lost Cause (1992):

“Never quite figured him out. This is better than some of the others.”

“Will this guy ever give up? [No.]”

“As lonesome as man, guitar and bedroom can possibly be . . . another classic! ‘Babe I love you.'”

“Christ, I’m tired of looking at this!”

“It’s no classic, but it has its moments, believe it or not. Maybe M, maybe L. It deserves rotation.”

“A master at his craft. At least he is persistent and consistent. The production is much improved.”

“Jandek is a big joke. A boy and his guitar making records out of his basement. The 19-minute ‘Electric End’ on side 2 qualifies as just about the worst noise I’ve ever heard on record. If this station wanted to be good to its listeners it would regularly play ‘Electric End’ in its entirety.”


Twelfth Apostle (1994):

“One man, one guitar, and way too much acid. If you can fit this into your program you’re a better (or worse) DJ than I.”

Now wasn’t that fun? If you still want more Jandek, I highly recommend investigating this obsessively detailed fan site (from which I got most of the info for this post), as well as the documentary film Jandek on Corwood (which I haven’t seen yet, but am even more psyched to than I was when I started typing this post).

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One Comment

  1. Damon Creed
    Posted November 14, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Interesting you mention KEXP plays Jandek with “relative infrequency.” He’s the kinda artist KEXP should continue to champion as he’s the indie rockingist! Yet KEXP ‘welcomed’ Jandek when he played in Seattle at On The Boards, Oct 2006. I can only imagine how much more full the OTB auditorium could’ve been had KEXP really welcomed Jandek.

    Studious listening of Jandek is well rewarded. Tip toeing in is not recommended. Jump in the deep end and revel in magic of “You Painted Your Teeth,” “Give It The Name,” “Painted My Teeth” or “Message To The Clerk.” Just a few among many.

    The documentary is very recommended.

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