[Jandek] Spencer Graham, A Chankin, Pitchforkmedia & being bored by Jandek

Gavin gavin at arkhonia.co.uk
Fri Apr 6 15:27:01 PDT 2007

A Chankin wrote that

> Recently, there has been interesting comment on the Jandek concerts.

in response (in part) to Danen's comments about the Pitchfork Richmond
review. I usually agree with most everything Danen posts on the list,
in part because he's a good writer and an astute thinker, analyst and
critic, and in part because one can't help but think him to be 'in the
know' because of his contact with Corwood relating to 'Niagra Blues'
(remember that? Anybody read it? That's something I'd love to see
discussed here). But I think his erudite and informed Pitchfork
riposte does possibly miss a point that Mr. Chankin tries to
(indirectly) address on his blog in response to

> Spencer's controversial opinions on the matter

Spencer is controversial here (and he always is - we kind of agreed to
disagree about the "Butts For Jandek" thing a few months back), and he
always seems to pop up (alternating with Frank Hardy) as either an
irritant or a catalyst in the midst of some debate or other, and I've
often found myself seething or despairing over his comments...but, for
someone who admits that

> I'm 20 years old, I've been listening to/studying music seriously
> for only four years- god forbid I still think breaking the rules is
> cool/interesting and worth discussing

he makes one really important point that is shared by the Pitchfork
writer, but that I feel that Danen maybe misses, that

> if he heard more Jandek and more shows he'd have thought
> differently, but I think sometimes an early impression from a less
> experienced fan can reveal something worthwhile that might not occur
> to someone as entrenched in Jandek's music as others are. And that
> was what I found interesting about the article, that even though
> Jandek's music is great it can sometimes get really tedious. But
> that's the nature of the beast- he probably wants that effect,
> because depression IS tedium.

I thought the Pitchfork piece was actually pretty good, and made the
point that Spencer echoes here, that its author didn't know much about
Jandek, had heard little, went at it with a (relatively) open mind,
and came away kind of unimpressed, and rather bored by the whole
thing. I gave it to me wife to read, and it concurred (in part) with
her own experiences, as she came to the Jandek Bristol show with me
(in fact she drove me down there AND back specifically, a 4 hour
journey both ways, and in the same day), and she's no fan of Jandek,
although she knows what it means to me. She managed the first half,
but sat out the second, although she could hear it from outside the
door; her concern was not that is was intolerable, but more that she
was 'zoning out' through the first half, despite the sheer brutality
of the music, and that it could very easily have put her to sleep, and
the drive back may have killed us all had she not had some way of
keeping herself alert. So she stayed outside and chatted with a couple
of guys who had come specially to see the performance, but couldn't
take any more, and equally felt that another hour and a quarter would
maybe be just too much, and between them she puzzled out the nature of
a Jandek performance, while me and my friend Danny were inside lapping
up the brutal assault as the hardcore fans that we are (my account is
here should anyone want to reread it:

Spencer says

> when you're deal with music that spurs uninterrupted negative
> emotion, or really any consistent, unchanging feeling, boredom can
> set in


> I think you're supposed to get a headache from a Jandek show/album
> (or at least the "rock" ones, as the Cell and such are very
> different moods). BUT that doesn't make it anymore difficult to deal
> with, just as his musical awkwardness doesn't seem any less jarring
> even if it's intended.

and I think this is pretty much on the money, and something that
Jandek fandom maybe misses through familiarity, a willingness to
accept what is presented on face value, and maybe too great a
tolerance for 'noise music' generally: that there is a challenge and a
confrontational intent, but the challenge and the confrontation may be
as much the endurance factor (these shows are looong!), and for the
performers as well as the audience, and maybe 'getting it' straight
away and accepting it, and by extension 'loving it', is possibly the
last thing a listener is supposed to do...I don't know. My wife was
chatting with these boys, and one of them went back in to the second
show, determined to 'get it', despite the fact that he couldn't take
any more of it - he took the challenge, and came out just before the
end to say that, once he stopped *thinking* about it, to "just let it
wash over you", it started to make some kind of 'intuitive' sense (I'm
paraphrasing wildly here as I was elsewhere)...

> when you enter Jandek's world, it's jarring- it's like choosing to
> have a bad trip, and that can be cathartic, but it's hellish all the
> same.

Maybe it isn't supposed to be 'enjoyable'...maybe it's supposed to
represent a state of mind, maybe 'be' that state of mind for the time
the performance takes place, for the performer and the audience, and
that 'Jandek' is this place for that time, and if the theme is
depression then it's depressing ("I thought I’d give you/A little bit
of depression/There’s no way out"), and if it's boredom or
pointlessness it's boring or pointless, and if it's a kind of muted
wondering ("what do I have?"), it's an extended circular reverie that
sounds like it feels...

> I still don't think I could stand a whole show.

I've seen Jandek three times, and every time it's seemed like a long
time, and it's felt...disconcerting, for a bunch of possibly
inarticulable reasons. But still exhilarating, cos I sort of knew what
to expect. But if I could feel what I originally felt when I first got
into Jandek, where sometimes, late at night and in the dark, it seemed
like the whole world was being pulled out from under me, and, had the
concerts been taking place then and I'd attended one I might have maybe
lost my mind... 

Just thinking out loud - Spencer, shoot me down in flames if I've
quoted you out of context or misrepresented your ideas.


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