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Jandek - Glasgow Sunday

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Artist: Jandek

Album: Glasgow Sunday

Label: Corwood

Review date: Jun. 20, 2005

Jandek spent 26 years before Glasgow Sunday not performing live, avoiding journalists, and generally acting mysterious, so his first live performance – in Glasgow in 2004 – is cause for excitement, or indignation, or confusion, or something. It’s a remarkably extroverted performance for someone who avoided performing for a quarter of a century, and it captures a sort of bleakness that characterizes most Jandek records (more on that later), but beyond that, I’m not sure what to make of it.

All Jandek records sound bleak, in that his music is very hard to listen to and it's hard to figure out what his motivations might have been for creating it. Besides that, though, there are different types of bleakness at work in his music, depending on what you're listening to. Glasgow Sunday is similar to Jandek’s 2004 album Shadow of Leaves, in that the bleakness derives more from superficial characteristics that are usually present in Jandek's music – his weirdly tuned guitar, for example (he plays a weirdly tuned bass on Shadow of Leaves), or his mush-mouthed, probably improvised lyrics – than from any feeling of sadness in the music.

On many other Jandek records (I haven’t heard them all, but let’s take Six and Six and Chair Beside a Window as examples), Jandek sounded genuinely depressed, and his whispered vocals sounded like the speech of a man who had run out of options. On Glasgow Sunday, not only is he killing that Jandek mystique by appearing in public (check out the DVD Jandek on Corwood for lots of the kind of understandable but absurd speculation about Jandek and his mental state that mystique causes), but he sounds downright happy, for him anyway. His lyrics are mostly very dark, but his delivery is often whimsical.

There’s also a lot to enjoy here, however. Jandek is joined on Glasgow Sunday by bassist Richard Youngs and drummer Alex Nielson, neither of whom are from Houston, where Jandek probably lives. Both seem to understand Jandek’s music very well, and the interplay between the three musicians is surprisingly coherent and dynamic even though there’s little that’s obvious about anything they play. Their music sometimes is similar to the blues, with its bending notes and repeated vocal lines. But its resistance to the conventions of genre (it’s atonal, it lacks obvious formal structures, and so on) makes it unrecognizable as blues, especially since Jandek doesn’t sound sad.

Of course, that last sentence could be said about many, or even most, noise records. Any Jandek record is weirder than most of those, for sure. But without the terrible, intense desperation present on many other Jandek albums (a desperation that tied him to the blues tradition in a much more direct way than some bent notes ever could), there isn’t nearly so much separating Glasgow Sunday from other guitar-heavy noise records. It’s still a fine album, but I’ll be listening to Jandek’s lonelier records more often than this one.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of Jandek

Raining Down on Diamonds


Glasgow Sunday DVD

Glasgow Monday

Manhattan Tuesday

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View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Corwood

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