Album review: Jeffrey Lewis and The Junkyard
Em Are I
What with New York’s most idiosyncratic neurotic Woody Allen upping sticks to Europe for his past few films, Manhattan musician Jeffrey Lewis has stepped in to chronicle the detritus of the human condition for his amicable fifth full-length album.
To fans, the majority of this lovingly crumpled bundle of nerves will be familiar from Lewis’ self-flagellating live schedule, as wearily explored on ‘Roll Bus Roll’, an unapologetically downbeat ditty about Greyhound buses, cheered on by a frayed backseat choral line and a ukulele that reignites the joyful spontaneity of touring.
Lewis peeps through warmly looping guitar layers at anxious existentialism on ‘If Life Exists?’ and self-deprecates with ‘Broken Broken Broken Heart’, all handclap-propelled rollicking ’60s pop which belies its bitter sentiment, and ‘To Be Objectified’ (“Going bald is the most manly thing I’m ever going to do”). ‘Whistle Past The Graveyard’ resurrects the madcap hyperactivity of ‘Systematic Death’ to quack and cluck with banjo-led insanity through the realms of the zombiefied absurd.
His comic-book sensibilities burst from the record with Technicolor verve, particularly as the titular erudite swine of ‘Good Old Pig, Gone To Avalon’. But no comic-book hero is complete without his sidekick – Jeff’s brother Jack plays bass throughout and wrote ‘The Upside-Down Cross’, an eight-minute song about marriage and ecology where Calexico race Do Make Say Think up a mountain only to find that Sonic Youth have beaten them to the top. With the Brothers Lewis’ dry delivery, worry of impending baldness and collection of romantic woes, Woody needn’t bother going home.