[Jandek] Re: Irwin Chusid

Jeff Grimshaw jgrimshaw at blast.net
Fri Feb 10 08:00:08 PST 2006

Every rock critic in the world has a list of the 500 Incredibly Talented Unknown Musical Geniuses That Everyone Else Is Too Stupid To Appreciate. And every rock critic in the world has a list of the 500 Most Overrated No Talents Currently Holding a Major Label Contract. What's really remarkable here is that Irwin wrote a book about a couple dozen more or less unknown musicians and included a chapter about one whose music he actively detests. He makes it pretty clear why he thinks Daniel Johnston and Shooby Taylor are worth the trouble of tracking down, but then you've got the chapter on Jandek which might as well have "DANGER! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT LISTENING TO THIS MUSIC!" stamped across every page. Okay, he hates this stuff. Why even mention it? What is it about this music that he just can't ignore? And the more he writes about how much he hates it, the more I'm thinking, I have frigging got to hear this! When I finally did hear it ("They Told Me I Was a Fool," of course) (a) the hair stood up on the back of my neck and (b) the fact that Irwin hated it made sense. I don't mean Irwin in particular, I mean I could understand immediately why anybody might hate it. I don't remember every thought that went through my head during that song, but I do remember thinking, "This music absolutely doesn't care whether you love it or hate it." (I also thought, 'I have no idea if this is good, I have no idea if I get this, but I want to hear more.') (Also: 'Note to self-do not play this for the girl friend.') 

Of course once you've read the chapter, it's fairly obvious why he included Jandek. Jandek not only fits the whole 'Outsider' profile, but Irwin's got an extensive personal history with him- he's not cutting and pasting from old magazine profiles, he's got correspondence, primary documents, and first hand anecdotes. It would be absurd to leave him out. But Irwin's visceral loathing of the music (which he makes not the slightest attempt to disguise) is what makes the chapter work. The fact that he's also obviously fascinated by it is why that chapter remains Jandek's most effective advertising tool. 
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