[Jandek] Byron Coley Spin article
Mister Born (to you)
scott.born at gmail.com
Sat Jan 27 16:01:56 PST 2007
I have it as text in a file on my computer:
Even pinetops realize that beneath the surface of truly popular
culture there's a whole subterranean level—a kind of basement filled
with not-so-popular culture. Inside of this obscurantist world, the
stuff that's covered in People magazine doesn't really exist (except
as something to divert your attention while standing on line at the
supermarket). It's a place where you can truthfully say that you've
never knowingly heard a song sung by Janet Jackson, hut you do own
every extant recording by the Desperate Bicycles (five singles and an
LP). It's a swell place. And beneath it is yet another, even darker
level—sort of a sewer, where what passes for pop culture consists of
deeply personal, intensely private expressions of general
non-belonging and emotional otherness. And 1 suppose you could argue
that this stuff isn't pop culture at all, but that'd be opening a big
can of semantic worms we don't have the space to deal with here, so
you'll have to take my word for it. Inside of this contextual cess,
the stuff is.
Artistic endeavors in this shadowy plane encompass all the popular
media (film, writing, painting... ) and the undisputed king of the
musical realm is a Texan known simply as Jandek. Believed to he a
resident of Houston, Jandek first came to the world's attention in
1978 with an LP called Ready for the House. Although it was billed as
being by "The Units" (a Texas band that Jandek had reportedly led at
an earlier date), the album certainly seems like the work of one man.
It is filled with a very different kind of blues—mostly acoustic,
almost-whispered, barely structured, quietly scrabbling. Distributed
through channels I can't even imagine, Ready for the House blew around
the country like an old dead leaf painted dark purple.
Eventually the album, with its out-of-synch cover photo showing a
sparsely appointed living room, came to the attention of Irwin Chusid,
the resident left-field disc-jockey at New Jersey's WFMU. House's
uniquely distressed signals apparently hit Chusid where he lived. He
got in contact with Jandek's label, Corwood, and secured a box of the
records. Using them as his megaphone, he began to spread the word
amongst potential believers.
One of these copies fell into the hands of Phil Milstein, who reviewed
it for Up (a now defunct obscurantist music paper) and whose roommate
intercepted a phone message from the man himself. Apart from that one
close call (and a few written missives, usually penned in a fairly
brusque tone), no one has ever heard from Jandek. Because of this
lack of hard information, many rumors pertaining to his personal and
professional life have been bandied about in polite bohemian drawing
rooms. "He's really Tommy Hall from the 13th Floor Elevators" "He's a
manic-depressive who does the records as therapy under his doctor's
supervision!" "The albums were all recorded in one epic burst of
activity, and they're being released as he can afford them. When all
19 have come out, that's it" Woof woof blah hlah.
Get in touch with his label to try to straighten out all the
fol-de-rol and you feel like a sausage hitting a brick wall. There
will be no interviews. There will be no photographs. Jandek's
records will speak for themselves. And they do.
Thus far, Jandek's LP total is 18. Each of the albums is graced with
a lovely, grainy, mysterious photo on the cover and a swell title to
match: Staring at the Cellophane, Telegraph Melts, Living in a Moon So
Blue. Sometimes a passel of records come out in a year, sometimes
there's only one. But there has been at least one every year since
1981 and they all investigate the dark nooks and blind alleys of the
human experience. Sometimes with a band (or an overdubbed
approximation of one), sometimes in duet with a faceless, wailing
woman, sometimes as naked and lonely as a man and a guitar can be,
Jandek never fails to touch a nerve that few other artists even
It's a dark night, there's a wet road and you've been in an accident.
As you bob on the edge of consciousness, a faint, barely graspable
song of longing floats through your head. And it's beautiful. So
beautiful and so rich and so deep you can barely fucking stand it.
Then it's gone. That's what Jandek`s like. I guess it's enough.
More information about the jandek