1 April 2009

Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - 'Em Are I

Originally featured in NME 15/04/09

What with New York’s most idiosyncratic neurotic upping sticks to Europe for his past few films, Manhattan musician and illustrator Jeffrey Lewis has stepped in to chronicle the detritus of the human condition for his amicable fifth full length album. To fans, the majority of this lovingly crumpled bundle of nerves will be happily familiar from Lewis’ self-flagellating live schedule, as wearily explored on ‘Roll Bus Roll’, an unapologetically downbeat ditty about Greyhound buses, cheered on by a frayed backseat choral line and a picaresque ukulele that reignites the joyful spontaneity of touring. Lewis peeps through warmly looping guitar layers at anxious existentialism on ‘If Life Exists?’, and self-deprecates with ‘Broken Broken Broken Heart’, all handclap-propelled rollicking ‘60s pop which belies its bitter sentiment, and ‘To Be Objectified’ (“going bald is the most manly thing I’m ever going to do”). Meanwhile, ‘Whistle Past the Graveyard’ resurrects the madcap hyperactivity of ‘Systematic Death’ (off the album ’12 Crass Songs’) to quack and cluck with banjo-led insanity through the realms of the zombiefied absurd. His comic book sensibilities burst from the record with technicolour verve, particularly as the titular erudite swine of ‘Good Old Pig, Gone to Avalon’ wiggles with Muppet-like bounciness to the Arthurian city. But no comic book hero is complete without his trusty sidekick – Jeff’s brother Jack plays bass throughout, and wrote ‘The Upside-down Cross’, a torrid, eight minute song about marriage and ecology where Calexico race Do Make Say Think up a mountain only to find that Sonic Youth have beaten them to the top. With the Brothers Lewis’ dry delivery, worry of impending baldness and mounting collection of romantic woes, it seems that Woody Allen needn’t bother going home.

7/10

3 comments:

Richard Hadden said...

How have you managed to hear this album or is it a secret?

Künstlicher said...

I was sent a promo copy to review for a magazine, but I put all my work onto my blog too. The review hasn't been published yet.

oculardexterity said...

Curses. Oh well. It's out before his gig.