[Jandek] Put My Dream on This Planet
miquelotjr at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jul 20 12:59:01 PDT 2006
Since "Put My Dream on This Planet" is suddenly up for discussion, just thought I'd send in a draft from an annotated discography of Jandek I've been working on.
Incidentally, might I suggest thinking of the "spoken word" albums as "dramatic poetries"? I don't mean to be pedantic or nuffin' (keeping in mind the whole "how do we return to Sterling debate) but there's this long-running debate in anthropology (specifically ethnopoetics & ethnolinguistics), wherein the "oral narratives" of indigenous peoples have been reconceptualized as "dramatic poetries" to foreground the role of style, inflection, vocal effects, gestures, etc. in shaping meaning, and defining the use of such paralanguage as artistic.
Just an idea.
Put My Dream on this Planet (2000)
Strictly for the devotees only, Put My Dream on this Planet is the answer-phone message Jandek left for God. Really. That’s not intended as a metaphor: that’s pretty much what this is. For fifty minutes, Jandek mutters (and in places chants) into a varispeeding tape that he’s “Ready for the House” and other variations on a theme. 22 years on from The Units album, the cryptic title that suggested a possible Biblical allusion is now confirmed. That said, Jandek’s not ready for the kingdom. Verbal-content-wise, the prayer of a relatively intelligent Christian of non-specific denomination. Verbal inflections suggest a more disturbed individual, trying on a range of ironic styles to paradoxically convey his seriousness by parodying a more wheedling speaker beseeching God. In spite of its uncompromising solipsism, Put My Dream on this Planet made a rare appearance in The Wire magazine’s 2003 cover-feature on the “State of Song”. – January 2006
On a second listen (six months later), Jandek’s first a capella album remains a surprisingly compelling prospect. Admittedly, more fascinating as material for psychoanalysis than anything else, but undeniably artistic in its formal range. The only equivalent in contemporary music that springs to mind is Heaven Sent (1997) by Half Japanese, which free-associates surreal images over the same mid-tempo riff for 70 minutes, interspersed with the lyrical refrain “this is our time…” – all of it coloured with different guitar effects and key changes, illuminating Jad Fair’s exquisitely lazy approximation of ecstasy in pastel rainbow colours. Jandek, on the other hand, chants a newsprint-grey picture of a world from which he’s alienated, interspersed with variations on the phrase “you push me down” – addressed to a never-identified You whose possible identities vary over the 28 minutes of “I Need Your Life” in a number of distinct movements. Firstly, the “You” seems to be the
very cause of Jandek’s sorrow – a cruel, Old Testament “God the Father” perhaps – who seems omnipotent but almost too inscrutable to quite be God as we tend to think of Him (Christian or not). True, the language does become slightly more Biblical later on, but on reflection it seems more accurate to say that Jandek’s speaking to the personification of his Depression; in a sense, the track provides a real insight into what people (mentally-healthy or otherwise) mean by being persecuted by demons. Towards the end of the track, “You” is addressed with erotic undertones and a breathy, almost lecherous delivery, although still assumed to be divine, as in the “Song of Solomon.” In places, this “You” seems to have the capacity to grant (and withhold) ecstasy, whether sexual or numinous, and Jandek seems to be trying to seduce “You” whilst being aware that “You” (the barrier between him and fulfilment) isn’t necessarily one and the same as the partner, or perhaps the Heavenly
kingdom, he desires. As has been said, these are the three main movements, but the track itself is comprised of innumerable voices: a polyphonous Babel that maps America. Inevitably, Blues and other musical genres are an influence on the delivery (Jandek seems to find in “black voices” a suitable expression of his own sense of persecution), but we also get characters who might have come from old movies: a whining informer, a helpless child, an obsequious beggar. Jandek, as Whitman once said, “contains multitudes” – he (formally; paralinguistically) becomes every person, or at least every American, who ever felt marginalized, even as he professes (explicitly; verbally) to be apart from it all, unable to enjoy anything. The tension between form and content, in a sense, tries to repair the singer’s alienation by identifying with everyone – even at the cost of psychical fragmentation. In the course of all this ventriloquism, several idiosyncrasies emerge: firstly, at the very
beginning of “I Need Your Life”, Jandek ponders that he might as well be in a wheelchair (‘I wouldn’t…care’), since there’s no saying that it’d be any worse than what he ‘did today’ – the same words are repeated later, but we still have no clue about his crime. Perhaps Jandek’s trying to confess, but then again, as one biographer found, investigating a Smiths lyric ‘I had a very bad dream / It lasted twenty years, and seven months / and twenty seven days’ (“Never Had No One Ever”) nothing happened on that day at all; Morrissey’s dream simply became reality in that thoughts became words on tape. By the same token, maybe Jandek’s unnameable horror stems from the fact that nothing happened either, and yet the negligence that implies - that abstinence from action - constitutes some terrible sin.
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