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Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – Glasgow, Oran Mor

Jeffrey‘Eclectic’ is a cliché in modern music. Journalists pen it about acts for simply speeding up the drum beat, and herald the addition of a string section to an average rock record as if Wheel 2.0 has arrived. Bands strive for it, everyone falling over themselves in the rush to show hitherto-undreamed levels of depth to their work. It never works, merely confirming their status as one-trick ponies trying to master the hula-hoop.

Occasionally, quietly, someone does deserve the epithet though. Jeff Lewis is certainly one of those.

Support act the Fishermen Three, including Jeffrey’s brother and band member Jack, are brilliant. It’s gentle, poppy Jayhawksy and really rather lovely.

And then he appears, just the right side of mental and undeniably unique. The set starts quietly, with the introspective strumming of ‘To Be Objectified’ before we are treated to his latest ‘movie’. This, for newcomers, is where Jeff narrates a story accompanied by his own comic book art. In this case, it’s the story of the Mayflower, but he’s only got up to 1620. In any other hands, this might prove to be, well, self-indulgent. In his it seems a perfectly natural and organic part of the show – why wouldn’t you have a bit like this in the set?

He mostly focuses on material from new album ‘Em Are I’, which is fine as it’s a corker. ‘Slogans’ and ‘Broken Broken Broken Heart’ are garage rock monsters, all spit, venom and bubblegum tunes. ‘Roll Bus Roll’ takes on a soft, noir jazz quality with the addition of dark, moody trumpet while ‘The Upside Down Cross’ is a psychedelic wig-out which scores your brain like a pen ripping writing paper. There’s a feeling of spontaneity in the song choices, rather than a simple blast through something which was decided six weeks ago at rehersals.

The set list isn’t decided; they talk about it between songs. We get Jeff’s solo gangster rap song about killing mosquitoes. We get a fabulously deranged version of ‘No LSD Tonight’. A gorgeous blast of ‘Don’t Let the Record label Take You Out to Lunch.’ It looks a lot of fun to be on stage, and it certainly is to watch.

For an encore, we got an impromptu Cribs melody which proves all their songs are based around four chords, which Jeff professes admiration for and laments the fact he can’t write songs like that. As if to prove it, they finish with three blasts of anarchy from the ’12 Songs by Crass’ album.

He needn’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with what he does himself. Folk, punk, garage, jazz, psychedelia, indie rock and rap – we’ve genuinely witnessed an eclectic gig. Most importantly, people leave aware that they’ve witnessed something that won’t simply be replicated show to show, town to town, which is a dying art. He remains one of the most interesting people in music at the moment, though like the properly, loveably odd, he’d probably tell you he’s as mainstream as the Saturdays. Gotta love him.


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