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26 October 2017

Jandek - 'Lost Cause' (Corwood Industries)

Skipping ahead a decade from Six and Six, Jandek is certainly a lot less monotonous than before, but not any more accessible. Lost Cause is split between acoustic and electric halves, though the electric half is a side-long free-form freakout (titled 'The Electric End') where plodding tom toms are layered with clangy electric guitar and a high-pitched whistling sound that's from some unidentifiable instrument, with the occasional vocal yelp from Mr. Sterling. It's nineteen minutes long and never lets up, and there's some pretty great parts - it's actually the reason I keep this record - though not exactly a smooth experience. The seven songs on side one are occasionally pretty, around themes of heartbreak ('God Came Between Us') and genitals ('Babe I Love You'). There's a whole lineage of loner, private-press acid folk casualties from the 70s (Kenneth Higney, Perry Leopold, Peter Grudzien, etc.) and Jandek's sound is like the most extreme version of this (and privately pressed, too) but somehow minus the acid. Or maybe he was a total tryptamine visionary, I can't presume to know, but his portraits of the mid-to-late 20th century American experience feel removed from any sort of Dionysian rites. I wonder if people thought this was going to be his last record at the time; its no bleaker than usual but just the 'End' in side 2's title and the LP name as well... it's not like anything could stop Jandek, and by this point (1992) he had developed quite a fleshed-out, complete musical vision. I was thinking during the last record how much Jandek's aesthetic has become a trope of today's avant-garde song people, certainly in terms of mood and vocal delivery; this has gotta be seen as some success for him, since initially he appeared to be both uninfluenced and uninfluenceable. Nowadays, he seems to be on a quest to perform with every one of today's active musicians, and that's actually admirable. However, I'm reminded of that story about a famous British wrestler who always wore a mask, and was known for his real face being secret, who announced he was going to take off the mask for a match, got huge attention for it, and then found his career essentially over, once the mask was off. (British wrestling fans will know who I'm talking about, but it doesn't matter). That's Jandek, to me – I was as stunned as everyone else when he suddenly played live in 2004, and then I saw a concert in 2005 and it was good, interesting kinda free rock, but nothing I would get too excited about. And since then, I haven't cared at all. But if I ever change my mind, there's been about 600 hours of new material to digest, including 6 and 9 CD box sets, some albums being entirely a-capella; but I'll pass, for now.

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