Thursday, August 30, 2012

Great Albums: 44 - Ready for the House (Jandek, 1978)

A certain person will be along in a moment to claim that I'm being wilfully obscure, but nowadays Jandek is a cult classic, not a scary wierdo.

That's right, isn't it?  For years the story was more important than the music - the mysterious singer/songwriter who could neither play nor sing very well, releasing one or more albums a year for decades, every one attributed to the non-name 'Jandek' (well, except this debut album, which was originally credited to The Units), the only clues to the real person behind this most outside of outsider music being the polaroids which make up most of the album covers.

Since Jandek unveiled himself (admittedy as the Representative of Corwood Industries) in Glasgow a few years back, some (not all) of the mystery has gone and, possibly as a result, the music is getting a re-appraisal and, you know, there's something about it which is pretty special.

On first listening Ready for the House can sound like a joke - Emo Philips wailing over an untuned  two string shoebox guitar being played by a mentally deficient, tone deaf mentalcase.  But even on first listen there's an occasional phrase, a certain intonation, an unexpected set of not quite discordant twangs on the guitar, and you find yourself wondering - is it actually funny?  Is it even meant to be?

I think the latter, myself.  Jandek's not a con or a joke or an elbroate tax dodge.  There's real emotion in his signing and the lyrics - on this album more than any other - are terrifying at points.

Take the opening track 'Naked in the Afternoon'.  Stick it on in the car as you drive through the pouring rain one dark winter evening.  Put it on repeat.  And I bet you that you'll be starting to feel down and a little bit unsettled before you get tn miles.  It's creepy, and disquieting and even scary.

The rest of the album continues in the same vein, until the final track (the only electric one) finishes in mid-sentence (and then completes on another album entirely!).  It's not Brothers in Arms or some Joe Satriani guitar wankfest, but then that would be the antithesis of Jandek - soulless but competent, all pretence and style, no heart.  Ready for the House is all heart, it's just that that heart's been mangled and torn until ti sounds like nothing else you're ever likely to hear.

Go on, give it a try...

Naked in the Afternoon
What Can I Say, What Can I Sing
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