Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn In The Dream: Songs (Rough Trade)
09 Nov 2011
“Sometimes, you find yourself yearning to hear a voice that isn’t yearning to be heard – to hear a song that isn’t a rambling think-piece but a song in its own right - and yet, at other times, it’s entirely comforting to have the mulled-over, articulate neuroses of a man fast approaching middle-age and his own perceived insignificance…”; release – 2011
Jeffrey Lewis, as he’s keen to point out on virtually all of his songs, is an acquired taste. A Turn in the Dream: Songs marks no departure from either this truism or his previous output. It’s more semi-spoken word ditties replete with literary brow-bragging and toe-tapping wooziness that are neither like to bring in new fans, nor deter existing ones. In short, it sounds exactly as you’d expect – like Jeffrey Lewis.
So, of the specifics: ‘Cult Boyfriend’ (streamed below) is an incredibly charming song with an (almost) fully-realized pop hook about Lewis’s underground appeal, seeing him muse that ‘when you’re a cult boyfriend life is always intense/ they love me or they hate me, no-one’s on the fence’. It’s as much an in-joke as anything else, and it’s exactly this sort of Postmodern wink/wanking that has made him the Williamsburg poster-boy he is.
Elsewhere, he’s less self-referential and more bedroom-philosopher. ‘When You’re By Yourself’ is breezy in the sort of way Beirut might write it, but as bar-stool profound as Doug Stanhope, with observations as starkly beautiful as ‘When you’re by yourself in the kitchen/ What’s the point of all that shopping and cooking?’. On ‘Krongu Green Slime’, he tells the story of man’s evolution in the space of six minutes – a sure advancement on the two hours it took Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey - which is nice enough, if you’re interested.
And it’s here that the album reaches its fork in the road: Jeffrey Lewis is an acquired taste. You either feel congratulated by his book-bloating vocabulary, his Beat Poet invocations, and his eschewing of fidelity, or you find it a frustration. Sometimes, you find yourself yearning to hear a voice that isn’t yearning to be heard – to hear a song that isn’t a rambling think-piece but a song in its own right – and yet, at other times, it’s entirely comforting to have the mulled-over, articulate neuroses of a man fast approaching middle-age and his own perceived insignificance.
It’s an interesting album which at times is sweet, at times profound, at times annoying, but always interesting. And surely that’s a taste everyone can acquire?