Dusted Reviews

V/A - Down in a Mirror: A Second Tribute to Jandek

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Down in a Mirror: A Second Tribute to Jandek

Label: Summersteps

Review date: Jul. 19, 2005

Summersteps’ second record of covers of songs by Texas recluse Jandek doesn’t actually sound much like him, which is probably a blessing. Jandek’s sighing vocals and mangled guitar chords can sometimes be pretty tough going anyway, even for fans like me; and they’re usually a couple small changes from being completely awful, even when they’re great.

Jandek wrote all the songs on Down in a Mirror, of course, except for Dirty Projectors' pleasant crooned tribute "With U Icon (An Homage)." But aside from the lyrics, Jandek's trademark moves are rarely audible (an exception being A Real Knife Head’s “Just Die,” which sounds like Jandek playing free jazz). Most of the songs are relatively straightforward, rough-and-ready indie rock songs. The most obvious Jandek features here (out of tune guitars, lo-fi touches) are features he shares with a thousand unknown indie bands, so they don't even remind me of Jandek most of the time.

The fact that Down in a Mirror doesn't really sound like Jandek is, like I said, not problem, but it means that the results depend much more on the artists who play the covers than on Jandek's words or musical ideas. A number of these tracks feel tossed off, and not in the sickly, creepy way Jandek's music can seem tossed off.

Still, there are a number of wonderful covers here, some by the disc's best-known artists. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy turns "Crack A Smile" into a whispery, breezy pop song with a soaring mellotron solo. Ben Chasny's lovely keening vocals on Six Organs of Admittance's "I'll Sit Alone and Think a Lot About You" capture the desperation and loneliness of Jandek's music without imitating his style. Led by Jordan Geiger's tick-tock piano, Okkervil River's "Your Other Man" features a vamp that simultaneously sounds tense and yet half-improvised. Rivulets' "Sung" is impossibly lo-fi – it sounds like it was recorded on a dictaphone – but tiny, mysterious bits of guitar and singing manage to emerge from the murk.

Some Jandek fans will enjoy these covers, but mostly they're just unassuming indie rock songs, so you don't need to like Jandek's brand of queasy, shivering late-night music to appreciate them. Down in a Mirror proves that Jandek's style can't really be imitated, which is quite a tribute indeed, when you think about it.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Read More

View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Summersteps

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.