Jandek

A Kingdom He Likes

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One of the songs on A Kingdom He Likes is titled "Sticks in the Marsh," and while no doubt his small band of avid cultists would disagree vociferously, is it too harsh to say that Jandek himself sounds stuck in the marsh? Artistically and personally, the man seems as if he's wallowing knee deep in an eternal funk, neither sinking nor swimming. Like many of his albums, the record's not so much a statement from an identifiable time and head space as another installment in an ongoing diary of mental fog and murk. With the exception of the opening 11-minute "I Gave My Eternity," all of the seven tracks are relatively succinct (and most definitely not snappy) numbers in the three-to-five-minute realm. Without much sonic range -- largely it's lugubrious acoustic stuff with dissonantly tuned guitars and moaned vocals -- the most interesting parts are the lyrics. Sample: "Go take a jump off a cliff, yeahhh...ssplatt-t! Way down there!," sung more like a personal suicide note than an urge for an enemy to off himself. Minor deviations can be heard in "A Windy Time," where he clumsily strums like a punk Robbie Basho and intones menacingly, "I just met the nicest of people, they all wanted to share business," though it's delivered more like a report from purgatory than a summation of a cocktail party. And then there are those parts of "It Rang Eleven Times" where his more-than-half-spoken vocals twist upward, nearing a loony falsetto. There seems no doubting that Jandek's records (many of which sound more or less like this one) are cathartic for the performer. But are they really making him feel any better for the exercise?

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