Thursday, March 18, 2004

Later on in a chair by the window, staring at the cellophane, the rocks crumbled...follow your foot steps, modern dances, blue corpse. You walk alone on the way to the living end.

Have you ever heard of Jandek? Probably...The man is such a genuine superstar that there's a movie out there all about him. Jandek is probably the ultimate example of the sad, near suicidal loner psych madman. I can't even begin to describe the somehow harrowing, utterly unique and ultimately sad story of Jandek; do some Google searching and download those mp3's. Hearing it is being there in an almost empty room, darkness seeping in with the dusk, as one guy makes the most abrasive, detuned guitar clang or zombified slow picking and sings his last breath for an audience of no one, and keeps doing it...over and over and over. Jandek really is a kind of superstar among the psych/weird music nuts the world over, as evinced by the many talking heads in this starkly shot documentary (including my pal George and Dr. Demento among many others), and as this mostly fascinating flick shows the people that love him, or at least try to hear him, certainly seem to empathize and even occasionally understand. The ultimate DIY songwriter/punk/pop/art/noise/whatever arteest, Jandek covers all the bases, and like his music he is all of these genres and styles, and none of them. The first time you hear this music you might be angry or disappointed, but chances are you'll also be curious about the who, why and how of Jandek.

We watched the first half of the 9:30 showing at the Austin Convention Center, and then made a crucial decision to duck out so we could make the Need New Body gig at La Zona Rosa 10 blocks across town, and come to learn later, just as I feared, we missed the great climax of the film which of course said everything and nothing at the same time. There will be other opportunities. NNB are uneven but consistently wild and energetic on record, the live set was similar. Clattery free jazz goof offs breaking down into mountain-freak banjo jams and then exploding in krautrocky punk blurts with lots of laughing, clapping and hoo-hawing in between. I personally wish they'd have toned down the absurdist theatrics a bit and focused more on what they obviously have a knack for, rockin' on the freak tip. More cross-city walking, this time to the Parish for the Merge showcase, where we catch the last part of a band that might have been called the Rosebuds. They looked pretty and sounded decent enough, but I wasn't buyin'. Too many annoying scenesters here as usual, all crammed together, resulting in a human heat reactor. More impressed with Destroyer, exhibits moments of anthemic glammy greatness, but Dan Bejar has such a peculiarly affected delivery, it's hard to hear what the hell he's singing about. The band all looked great though, at one time all donning matching peach colored head bands, as they strutted their way through prime Bowie/Roxy/Eno pop glitz.

Another schedule sacrifice, would have to miss my old pals in Houston's Linus Pauling Quartet ( for more info) to see another band I've fixated on the last few years who I'd never seen before, the Volebeats. Detroit Rock City twangsters with a serious penchant for old psych gems and older country ballads is the call of the day. I love this band, doubt you'll find a more seductive modern mix of Byrdsian spaghetti pop balladry than their album, Sky and the Ocean on Safehouse. Normal guys, a scruffy 5 piece, they played a few new songs, each one better than the one before, some old favorites including "Two Seconds" (I kept calling for 2 Minutes! like a drunk version of the mad newspaper boy in Better off Dead). Set included covers of the 13th Floor Elevators, Beach Boys and Bobby Fuller. Vintage live pop heaven performed by seasoned pros. Asked guitarist/singer Matthew Smith after the gig, "do you like Jandek?" "Yeah, we just saw the movie!" I think they were sitting one row behind us, and they stayed for the whole thing. Six Organs tonight, Sufjan Stevens today? Will I have to miss High on Fire live yet again??? Watch this space...

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