Jandek

Interstellar Discussion

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Many Jandek fans consider the middle period of his career, from 1983's The Rocks Crumble through maybe 1992's Lost Cause, to be his best work. Interstellar Discussion, released in 1984, was his ninth album since 1978 and second to feature electric guitar and drums throughout. It sounds like the album that the primitive rocker main character of Anne Tyler's A Slipping Down Life might have recorded, an album of songs so inscrutable and self-involved that it's all but impossible to approach them as you would a "normal" album's worth of pop songs. (Pretty much all one can learn from the lyrics of a song like "Rifle in the Closet" is that the writer is becoming increasingly troubled by something, to the point that he reassures the listener at the end that the title is "just the name of the song," lest one think he's about to take one out and use it.) Musically, however, Jandek is not quite so difficult to suss out as his detractors (and even his admirers) often maintain. The singer/songwriter is clearly part of a continuum that stretches from Harry Partch to the Mountain Goats, with echoes of Charley Patton, the Residents, and his fellow Houston-based experimentalists the Red Krayola. Listened to in this light, Interstellar Discussion starts to make perfect sense. This is a fairly good album for newcomers, as it's not one of his more "difficult" releases, and songs like "Hey" (and the following instrumental, "Why Did I Change a Word in the Last Song" -- "hey" being pretty much the only word in the entire preceding song) and "May 7, 9:15 A.M." are, for Jandek, relatively accessible.

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