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Jeffrey Lewis and the Jackals – The Captain’s Rest, Glasgow

Nu-folk, they are calling it after the posthumous, Juno-assisted success of the Moldy Peaches ‘Anyone Else But You’. Slightly deranged warblings from funny, clever Americans over lo-fi simple melodies. It’s childlike and it can endear and annoy in equal measure. Jeffrey Lewis has been on the scene for a while. You will know him even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, as he’s the mentalist you’ve seen on MTV intoning fantastical poems as he flips his comic strips over and over. He released a whole album of anarcho-punk’s Crass covers. He is unlikely to be mistaken for David Gray any time soon.

But what of him? Is he a barely-discovered genius or are we banding about the word ‘seminal’ too early again? Is he just a soundtrack away from Shins-style success?

This is a sell-out-show, but there are sell-out shows and there are sell-out shows. Elton John announced a tour last week of venues the size of his ego and sold out in seconds. Jeffrey Lewis finds himself playing a venue the size of the Rocket Man’s talent. But it is packed, and it is sweaty, and the people in the crowd have been looking forward to this as intently as those with tickets to go and see Dame Elton.

He’s a weird bloke, and no mistake, but it’s engaging quirkiness rather than the studied, wilful insanity so many on the scene offer. Lyrically, he’s brilliant, row after row of surreal, funny, non-sequitirs and plenty of rhyme’n’crime. It all works. Check out the superb ‘New Old Friends’ or ‘Anxiety Attack’ for proof.

As mentioned, he released an album of Crass covers and what he does with it has to be heard to be believed. He makes ‘Punk Is Dead’ a gentle, lovely lament and it’s genuinely innovative, proerly inventive. He recites a poem accompanied by his insane artwork which is part of his ongoing ‘History of Communism’ series (we’re up to part 5 now, since you ask.)

He finishes up with ‘Don’t Be Upset’* which is as good a song about relationships, actual, proper relationships with all their banality and fears and triumphs as you’ll hear. Although poles apart in sound, he reminds ELM of Billy Bragg – sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes heartbreaking but always interesting.

So, will it take a shit soundtrack to a ‘quirky’ film to get him his breakthrough? I hope not. Because he’s making music that deserves an audience because it is great. That’s a good enough reason for me.

* Here are the lyrics to this song. Judge for yourselves!

i took my darling out to the aquarium
sea creatures stared at us and we stared back at them
my baby freaked when she peeked at that 8-legged blob with a beak
she was too scared to speak
i said don’t be upset it’s only an octopus
don’t bother it and i’m sure it won’t bother us
please don’t be upset my darling, please don’t get upset
my baby came riding to meet me one time
on the crowed last car of the downtown-bound 9
she was brave but she caved
when the train was delayed
it was just the last straw in her hard busy day
i said don’t get upset ‘cuz it’s not a catastrophe
nothing will happen and soon you’ll be back with me
please don’t be upset my darling , please don’t be upset
my gal’s got a headhache, her ankle is hurting too
boots she bought gave her a rash & her winsdom tooth
is coming in and it’s damp out and she’s having cramps and she’s so mad at me cuz i didn’t shave
i said don’t be upset i know you’re feeling sensitive
i’ll try to be kinder and be more attentive
please don’t be upset my darling please don’t get upset
darling i said, i’m gonna be 27 soon
i’ve only got rejection letters and a sense of impending doom
i think it’s too late for me
all the comic companies hate me
and i try but it’s always the same
i guess my art is just lame and it’s strange but still somehow i’m
always not suiting their needs at this time
and she said ……..don’t be upset,
you know that you’re wonderful
just keep on trying …(actually what she really said was)
all you ever wanna talk about is your self and your comic books and your album and your tour
and everytime i see your friends they just ask me where you are again and it hurts
it makes me feel like dirt
i’m just gonna write where you are on my shirt
and i said don’t be upset, don’t be in a bad mood
let’s just go to a show and hang out and feel good
come on please don’t be upset my darling, please don’t be upset, i’ll do anything baby, just don’t be upset .

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7 Responses

  1. ‘Nu-Folk’?
    I beg to differ – it’s Anti Folk New York, or AFNY as the Moldy Peaches sang in the brilliant Jorge Regula…

    Nu-Folk, as a title, stinks.

    Yes – STINKS.

  2. Nu-anything as a title stinks. I’m just going with what they said in the Metro. Got to be true.

  3. Argh. The Metro be damned. And London Lite and all that other shite. Why can’t people BUY a fucking paper…

  4. because bogroll costs money. 😉

  5. Because they are all shit, you might as well get a free one.

  6. That is precisely what they want you to think, ELM.

  7. I’m Scottish Swineshead. If you offered me a turd in a bag for free I’d take it. 🙂

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