[Jandek] the a capella albums

Danen D. Jobe djobe at uark.edu
Thu Mar 30 20:04:53 PST 2006

You know, it's occured to me that in order to understand the shock of these albums, you kinda had to be there. Maybe it's like Metal Machine Music? I remember the first time I heard that I thought "whoah, that's some wild stuff" but I found it to be neither the "great lost Lou Reed statement" or the "worst album ever made." It was interesting, and worth having, if not something I wanted to put on everyday.

On the other hand, I can't imagine having put that thing on not knowing what I was gonna hear, without years of being told how unlistenable it was first. Once you hear that something is "unlistenable," whatever your mind thinks up is always going to be (from my experience) worse than the real thing actually is.

And so to really appreciate how shocking 'Put My Dream on This Planet' was, you have to imagine having gone through several years of acoustic music (and as I remember only 'Ready for the House' had been reissued at this point) and assuming Jandek was making the kind of music he would probably always make. One imagined diversions ('White Box Requiem' was certainly that) and experiments ('I Woke Up') but there was a continuity. 

When 'Planet' came out it sounded like, well, NOTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.  There was no warning - I remember that we went on about it on the list for weeks. Nobody knew WHAT to think.  Then the next accapella came out. We didn't know it was a trilogy - as far as we knew he might make accapella albums forever!  When a guitar showed back up, it was a relief - honestly.  Now I can go back to those albums (occasionally) and hear new things. I can put them in context as the bridge between phases - they make sense. They are a world to their own. They also serve as a warning - this artist is going to do whatever the hell he likes, and it's apt to be the last thing you expect.  

Take the live show - and then the live SHOWS. Take 'Khartoum Variations,' for instance. Never expected any of that. 

If he made a duet album with Prince, I swear it wouldn't surprise me. 

Much. :)

Bet he'd move a lot of recordings then!

But this thread has made me think (and yes, even revisit the accapella albums). I still hold that they get better over time (and that the shorter tracks are the best) BUT they're interesting, and worthy of spending some time with.

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I listened to a good bulk of Jandek's a capella material this weekend while driving, and I was surprised at how interesting it was.  I was expecting the worst, but I found most of it much easier to swallow than something like "Blues Turned Black," which is, in my opinion, excruciating to listen to.  Even the lengthier spoken pieces held my attention.  I guess I'm just one of those oddballs...

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