Monday, June 30, 2008

Jandek - Ready for the House (J)

There are two opinions you can have when you listen to Jandek: it's dissonant, juvenile, movementless music, OR it is the most emotionally deep sound you have ever heard.

Jandek's disturbing yet close-to-home tunes fall into the genre of "outsider music," otherwise known as music that doesn't fall into a conventional norm or music made by those with mental disabilities or issues. Notable outsider artists include Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd fame, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Daniel Johnston.

No one really knows exactly who this "Jandek" character really is. Due to his consistent releases (bordering 50 since his debut in 1978), some speculate that Jandek is rich stockbroker Sterling Smith, reclusive head of Corwood Records, Jandek's hosting label. Others believe that the project is a joke, and some think that these are the recordings of a millionaire's retarded son. Jandek has been a part of 2 interviews in his quarter-century music career, and made his first live appearance in 2004, unnanounced. Since then he has played just a handful of concerts, varying greatly in performance.

Jandek's sound on "Ready for the House," his 1978 debut, is characterized by a guitar tuned to an unconventional open tuning strumming awkward one-note-at-a-time "riffs," I guess they would be called that, beneath a mournful (and very amateur) voice, normally singing in some sort of blues or folk fashion. Electric guitars appear in songs, as well as very awkwardly played drums played by a neighbor, Josh. Occasionally a female vocalist, presumably named Nancy due to her debut song, "Nancy Sings," will appear, singing some sort of haunting melody.

Lyrics on this disc are rather abstract, ranging from old hymns (Show Me the Way, O Lord) to the extraordinarily bizarre (Naked in the Afternoon). One thing is certain, however: Jandek has a strange and extraordinarily dark view of the world. Though his music sounds rather unappealing and harsh on the ears at first, Jandek's sound really grows on you, for some strange reason. I recommend trying to listen to an album in its entirety in one sitting; I attempted it once and had to pause the music 4 songs in just to regain my composure. I was shaken, to say the least.

Jandek's fan base is extremely small, but therein lies important musical figures including, but not limited to David Tibet (Current 93), Alan Sparhawk & Mimi Parker (Low), Kurt Cobain (Nirvana, Earth), and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes).

In order to obtain Jandek's albums, write a letter to Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston, TX 77220. One disc is $8, but you can get 20 for $80, which is quite a deal. And who knows, Jandek might write you back in his mangled writing. At one point in everyone's life, their ears scream for Jandek's music.

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