[Jandek] Jandek's image changes on the album covers

chthonic streams chthonic at chthonicstreams.com
Tue Apr 11 07:03:12 PDT 2006

>An interesting thing, and probably the biggest arguement that Jandek 
>IS a artist with a very deliberate aesthetic is the radical image 
>changes/re-inventions of his persona that goes on in his album 
>You have the early recordings with the average-American Richie 
>Cunningham-meets-psych patient look, to the New york indie rocker 
>look on 'the living end', the 'nu alt rocker' look on 'somebody in 
>the snow', the early Rolling Stones fan on 'Whitebox', the hair 
>hippy on 'the door behind', the psychadelic-folkie on 'shadow of 
>leaves', the 'regular non-rock' guy on 'narrow road/end of it 
>all/rec;use'...and then the emaciated Cowboy-traveller on 'a 
>kingdom' and 'train' to the most out-there image of Jandek the 
>Muslim on 'Raining down diamonds' and 'khartoum' to the most recent 
>with Jandek the wood-cutter....
>But all feature a man who is definitely playing with his image in 
>his own uniquely ORIGINAL idiosyncratic style, but also seems to be 
>aware or keeping up with the 'pop' image sub-cultures of particular 
>pop music zeitgeists ie: the Stones rocker, the hippy, the 50s 
>rocker, the folkie etc. That he has created such a unique 
>sonic/aesthetic universe is something quite amazing, despite the 

that last line is true, regardless of what anyone thinks of the music 
itself.  however, the rest can all be superimposed by the audience. 
to him, these could simply be pictures of himself that he likes and 
thinks make a good album cover.

the predominant subject matter of his lyrics seems very personal. 
thus each album is simply a "snapshot" of his life when he wrote it, 
hence the literal snapshots on the covers.  the different "looks" are 
just whatever he looked like at the time.  now that we know and see 
he isn't a young man anymore, we can guess that most of the cover 
photos, especially the early ones, were taken years before the 
music's release.  this doesn't necessarily support the theory that 
the albums themselves were recorded earlier than their release, 
simply that the pictures, whatever era they were from, seemed to fit 
each body of music.

we'll never know what significance the shirtless, walking jandek held 
for him any more than we'll know why he used a particular nondescript 
middle american house.  i vaguely recall some annoyance and 
speculation about the 'somewhere in the snow' and/or 'shadow of 
leaves' covers as being somehow "posed" like a wannabe pop star. 
everyone poses for photos just a little, this doesn't make it 
anything other than an amateur snapshot.  that he's a bit dressed up 
could be for some other occasion - funeral? wedding? job interview? 
work?  and then a walk in the woods, with a snapshot camera taken 
along, as so many people do.  several of the later covers show travel 
- what's more natural to a tourist than keepsake photos?

the idea of jandek as solitary figure is part of his myth; clearly 
*someone* must be taking these photographs, presumably someone close 
to him judging from the fairly informal nature of most of them. 
certainly there is some degree of thinking going on, but i don't 
think it's quite so contrived.  as for the different styles of hair 
and clothes, people go through phases.  pop culture pervades our 
existence, and even cutting yourself off from it some will seep 
through and influence you to a degree.


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