[Jandek] Corwood 0786: Austin Sunday
Danen D. Jobe
djobe at uark.edu
Sat Nov 4 20:46:51 PST 2006
...and at long last there it was, in its full double-disc glory. Tracklisting as follows:
1. Throw Me Away - 9:13
2. Ugly Man - 7:12
3. Lithe Body - 9:25
4. The Police - 7:21
5. Run Away - 5:32
6. If I Wanted - 5:45
1. Wine You Devil - 8:50
2. You Hold Me Up - 5:37
3. You Just About Killed Me - 6:53
4. Little While - 5:36
5. Lonely Dog - 6:51
6. Let Me Try Again - 12:54
This is an interesting listen, as I was at this show, so I'm comparing what I hear on the discs to what I heard at the Scottish Rite Theatre. In concert, of course, there was the thrill of the moment: Jandek's first U.S. show, the echoing sound of his boots as they walked across the stage and the crowd fell silent, the light that echoed a shadow of the Corwood Rep onto the wall next to the audience (replicated, somewhat, by the presence of the mirror beside the audience at the Toronto show), the opening of the black notebook with the lyrics, the two drums. On disc one has none of these things to set context with, simply the words and music. Transcribing the lyrics (I'll post them in the next message) I was utterly struck at their personal nature. As Seth noted at the time, these lyrics are much darker than the often tongue-in-cheek lyrics of "Newcastle Sunday" or poetic meditations of "Glasgow Monday." On this album Jandek seems to turn against everyone and everything, and t
he utter desolation reminds me a bit of the text to "Shadow of Leaves," where he spends much of the time in dark contemplation of his place in the world.
But the world there is much smaller than this one. On the first track, we're told that "I don't care about boys...girls...happy...sad. I don't know why I'm in front of you. I'm six feet under the radar screen." A bit funny in a dark way, but also shocking - "I guess I asked you for a moment of your time/but really, really it's all out of hand." Jandek seems to be lashing out a bit at the audience sitting in front of him, seeming to not understand why anyone would be there.
But this is part of a larger self-destruction. The songs, throughout, feature jagged, bluesy riffing accenuated by Juan Garcia's rolling basslines (which sometimes get in the way, but mostly work well) and the spacey, panrhythmic effect of the twin drums. This isn't quite the attack of "Newcastle" (or the Chicago show I just saw, for that matter), but has a spacier feel, with most of the show seeming to move at a slowish pace, which allows the words to really sink in. "Ugly Man" is rather difficult at times to listen to, though it reminds me more than a little of early Swans ("I'm going down/like some black plague in history/I'm an ugly man/not beautiful like you").
In "Lithe Body" he seems to be discussing the creation of his character, Jandek. This is a concept that comes to full fruition in the Toronto show, but here he talks about being the man behind the theoretical curtain that you're not supposed to look at: "I rearrange what I am/ conceal what is important." This includes the most direct address to the audience he's yet made: "How could I send you all that I made/when I didn't make it, it made me? / And now I have something to contend with/a process enabled/the mission of a moving character." Wow.
The band's chemistry really comes together on standout "the Police." No, it's not about the "Every Breath You Take" band, but rather a scathing indictment of the cops, whom he may have turned to for help? "I asked the police, 'take me away'/ can't do no good there/don't want to stay."
"Run Away" almost seems to address the crowd that once rejected him: "What I like about you/you don't like me...it's a pleasure to be in pain." This is an old theme, especially from the sequence of albums about his love affair and its dissolution. He's after what he can't get - if he gets it, he'll kill it.
Or is it that he can't trust this audience? "You're going someplace I don't want to go/it's not my story it's yours" begins "If I Wanted." "I can't control you/you're outside me/so I'll just close the door." And so ends the first disc.
This intermission is a good time to observe the cover, which seems to jump directly out of "If I Wanted." The door here is open, the curtains pulled back. Beyond is a balcony, green space, a beach and the ocean. An invitation, perhaps? Maybe he's closed one door only to open another? Probably I'm reading too much into this, but it's hard to miss. This cover is shocking in a way - it reflects the nakedness of the CD. He says he's closing the door, but instead he's left it wide open. I'm going to think about this more.
Disc two starts with another highlight, beginning "Oh wine, you devil/you made me love you again." So we're escaping into alcohol. The drums and bass are all over the place here, and it leads to the narrator praying to the "wine God."
This idea of the cruelty of addiction continues: "You Hold Me Up" says "You hold me up when I want to fall/I don't have hope outside of you." "You Just About Killed Me" echoes the musically and lyrically similar "I Shot Myself" from "Khartoum," but this time it's not self-mutilation, but the loved one/drug/audience turning on the self. "The chairs are all empty/I've stopped looking for the way," he says. But of course this is a concert, and on that night the chairs were all full.
Another brutal track follows, and this features another recent hallmark of Corwood's, the "captured dialogue." Over a musical attacks, we overhear one side of a phone conversation: "All right then I'll see you in a little while/Yes I think they are, will you be coming by?/Are they ready yet? He said they would be." Toronto started like this and he's used the form on "What Else Does the Time Mean?" I love it.
A creepy blues backs "Lonely Dog," and the narrator gets right to the point: "I'm in my own way/the rest doesn't exist...I don't care about philosophy/even if it's right." So he's hiding, disappearing into the wine and ignoring the well-meaning intentions of others. That leads to the super-slow, even creepier closer, "Let Me Try Again," which starts "I know I've been a failure to you" and asks for forgiveness. But to whom is he asking? A God? The bottle? His audience? Himself? There's a religious tone (as tends to be the case) at the end, with the lines "I stop and I see you/in all the glory that you are." So he's been a failure, but perhaps it was impossible to measure up? "I'm not asking for anything/how could you give me more/I'm not going to make sense of it."
This album is a necessary companion to the other recent live discs (and shows). I'm stunned, really. Can't imagine it being as "listener friendly" as the last two shows, but now that I've had a chance to really consider it I think it's on a par with them. I'm anxious, in fact, to listen to the three together, and to the New York shows that I hope will be soon to follow, and which seem to be conceptually related.
The door's open.
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