[Jandek] Review

Darin Mitchell susseddm at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 7 16:41:03 PST 2006


Corwood Industries, 2005
rating: 3.5/5
reviewer: p funk

Khartoum makes me almost positive of one thing: Jandek's probably seen 
Jandek on Corwood, the 2004 documentary in which critics, record store 
clerks, and other personalities postulate about his personal life and wax 
exultant about his music. There's a self-ironizing awareness here of the 
expectations, suspicions, and fantasies that listeners bring to the table 
when they sit down with a Jandek album, and just as Stephen Daedelus' 
developed capacity to distance himself from his own persona and laugh at the 
fiction of self-mythologizing prods us to sympathize with him in the final 
pages of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Jandek's newfound ability 
to accept and play off of his role as a public figure makes Khartoum a 
profoundly amiable effort.

Amiable's a relative term, of course  Jandek still plays the blues, and he 
still plays them atonal as fuck, each guitar note grinding against notions 
of scale and harmony like the bones in an aged cottonpicker's arthritic 
knees. Sonically, Khartoum acts as a perverse form of soul music, using 
sinister intonations to communicate visceral emotion. Both acoustic guitar 
and voice (the only two instruments that confront us this outing) barge into 
the frame with drunken bluster, slurring notes and syllables to the point 
that we can't take anything straight. When Jandek blurts, "Be Careful/ I'm 
the vulnerable kind/ I like to hurt myself" with a laconic drawl in "New 
Dimension," he seems acutely aware of the lines as over-the-top 
oversimplifications of the sort of Romantic/masochistic/withdrawn axis on 
which listeners often place his music. Khartoum certainly deals in a poetics 
of pain, but it's a different pain than we're used to hearing from Jandek; 
he now seems to be wincing at the communicative process rather than the 
feelings he's communicating.

As with any Jandek release, Khartoum might ultimately be more fun to think 
about than it is to listen to. In fact, the album seems to encourage this 
sort of response, as its attempts at gut-level communion are constantly 
diffused by an ironic, conflicted tone, creating the sense that all of this 
howling at the moon is actually a fruitless exchange. In another light, it's 
actually a bit refreshing that all of this raw emoting doesn't burden itself 
with any direct Message, and this assault on intentionality certainly adds 
an interesting wrinkle to Jandek's oeuvre. For the cynics who reduce 
Jandek's art to schtick and view his catalogue as a series of lazy 
recyclings, this record is the show-'em-some that's been two decades in the 
making, a point where Jandek acknowledges the ridiculousness of his own 
myth, but still clings to his Jandek-ness as he does so.

1. You Wanted to Leave
2. Fragmentation
3. I Shot Myself
4. New Dimension
5. Khartoum
6. In a Chair I Stare
7. Move from the Mountain
8. Fork in the Road


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