(Part 7 of an ongoing series)
One reason I’m doing this here Post-Apocalyptic iPod project is because I’m kind of a music hoarder. The biggest problem with this is that I hoard a lot of music that I’m pretty sure I won’t listen to again, yet I hold on to it because I’m convinced I might finally “get it” if I hear it enough times, or that this music which I don’t really like all that much might somehow come in handy at some point in the future. Lucky for me and my lady and my dog, the vast majority of my music hoarding is done digitally. If there were no such thing as mp3s, though, there’s a very good chance you’d see me on an episode that A&E show snapping at my loved ones and a team of professional clutter-cleaners as they try to pare down the gargantuan piles of CDs, tapes and records that are now preventing me from opening the bathroom door. “Don’t throw out that Animal Collective CD!” I’d yell. “I know I didn’t like it much the first 3 times I listened to it but I might change my mind if I hear it a 4th time! Or maybe one day I’ll make a mixtape for someone who’d dig ‘Lion In A Coma’ way more than I do!”
So by deciding what music matters most to me through the Post-Apocalyptic iPod project, I’m trying to better identify the music that matters much less to me, in the hopes I can free up more room on the rapidly dwindling hard drives of my laptop and 2 iPods. I’m not very optimistic that this will work, and if it does work, I doubt my hard drives will remain uncluttered for very long; after all, the hoarders on TV relapse so very, very often. But I’m sure gonna try.
One part of my music library I desperately need to trim is all the damn Jandek I have. I don’t think Jandek has as much Jandek as I have. I often feel like all the Jandek mp3s on my hard drive might as well be the complete Berlin Alexanderplatz without subtitles, considering how likely I am to consume it all. Overall I’m kind of intrigued by Jandek, and I’m very glad Jandek exists, but from what Jandek I’ve listened to so far, I think deep down I know I’ll never be anywhere near as fascinated by Jandek as I’d have to be to justify possessing as much Jandek as I currently do. Ben Gibbard’s probably got the right idea. I could probably live just fine and dandy the rest of my life if I owned only one Jandek album- regular life, that is, not Post-Apocalyptic life. Post-Apocalypse is a whole different bucket of beans. Some Jandek songs would make an ideal soundtrack for wandering around the smoky rubble and twisted metal and scorched earth of what was once a slightly less wretched world. Yet they also might be a little too ideal, too depressing. Post-Apocalypse, I think I’d just need one Jandek song. But more on that in a moment.
Now the main reason I accumulated so much danged Jandek in the first place boils down to the fact that not only am I a music hoarder, but I’m a sucker for a good back story. I was eager to hear some Jandek ever since I read about his mysterious, primitive, avant-garde folk/blues style in Irwin Chusid’s Songs In The Key Of Z (a book that also covers a number of other so-called outsider musicians that have piqued my curiosity over the years: Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, The Shaggs, Wesley Willis, and Daniel Johnston to name a few). Then when I started looking for Jandek songs online, all I could find at the time was a single zip file consisting of 24 complete albums that would’ve taken my computer more than half a day to download. So rather than read about all 60 Jandek albums, decide which one I might enjoy best, hike over to Kim’s or Other Music and then, if they happen to have a copy of that album (or any other Jandek album for that matter), spend 15 bucks or whatever on an album I may very well hate…I decided to go with the 12-hour, 24 album free download thing.
I forget how or why exactly I chose to listen to Chair Beside A Window first out of those 24 Jandek albums, but I did. And I think if I ultimately decide to live with just one Jandek album for the rest of my days, that will be the one, if only because it contains “Nancy Sings.” Up til now, all the Jandek songs I’ve heard that aren’t “Nancy Sings” kind of blend in to each other: weirdo Texas dude drawling and moaning off-key as he paws a gimpy, harshly-tuned guitar, and occasionally somebody hits drums to something almost resembling rhythm. There are tunes in there, sure; I could probably hum the hooks from some of them. And the aura of each record is thrillingly unsettling; it almost sounds like each track was tape-recorded in between intense sessions of backyard corpse-burying.
Then in the middle of all this deliberately ugly music, there’s the majestically beautiful “Nancy Sings,” like the Hope Diamond floating in a vat of week-old oatmeal and squirrel bones. While I’m rarely in the mood to listen to Jandek, I’m often in the mood for “Nancy Sings,” and when I’m in that mood I have to listen to it on repeat for like an hour.
“Nancy Sings” isn’t my favorite Jandek song merely because Jandek doesn’t actually sing it. In small doses, I actually appreciate Jandek’s singing style, which seems to have influenced one of my favorite musicians, Kurt Vile, who often sounds like what Jandek might sound like if Jandek gave a fuck about having an audience. But the really great thing about Nancy’s voice isn’t simply that it’s a break from Jandek’s voice- it’s that Nancy’s voice is time-stoppingly lovely, period. It mesmerizes me so much that after hundreds of listens I’m still not sure what all the lyrics are. I know there’s some talk about rain falling and kissing your hair. It could very well be middle-school-poetry bad, but that doesn’t matter because when Nancy sings, little else matters, really.
Nancy’s voice alone would be enough to secure this track a spot on the Post-Apocalyptic iPod, but the fact that her pristine beauty is accompanied by the scraggly beast of Jandek’s acoustic guitar and they sound absolutely perfect together elevates “Nancy Sings” into its own private stratosphere of awesome. In fact, my profound love for this song may be the sole reason, outside of my general music-hoarding tendencies, that I’ve continued to keep such a ridiculous amount of Jandek on my computer. As if somewhere among the 20 albums I haven’t listened to yet, there’s a song just as amazing as “Nancy Sings.” Reason tells me this probably isn’t so, but music hoarders like me have a hard time hearing reason above the alluring siren songs of unheard albums.
Approx. 2 minutes, 50 seconds; 7,887 minutes, 52 seconds left on the iPod