Friday, May 15, 2009

Jeffrey Lewis

My review of the very smart, very interesting new album by Jeffrey Lewis is up today at Dusted...

Jeffrey Lewis
'Em Are I
Rough Trade

What is Jeffrey Lewis afraid of? This graphic artist/New York Times columnist/songwriter can dash off hyper-literate, clever verses at lightning speed, wrapping weirdo meditations on death and reincarnation in neat couplets, skewering every aspect of hip modern life – and often himself – with piercing insights. Yet while intelligence is his stock in trade, Lewis doesn’t seem to trust it. Even in his smartest songs – the deconstruction of dysfunctional love in “Broken Broken Heart,” the consideration of the limits of human perception in “To Be Objectified,” the agnostically giddy “Whistle Past the Graveyard”– balance philosophy with self-conscious naivete. In fact, it’s almost as if he’s embarrassed by the verbal tricks he can perform and retreats, after a particularly good one, into Beat Happening-ish studied simplicity. For instance, he’s the kind of writer who can use big words like “voracious” (three times in “Bugs and Flowers”), then back up to chide himself for pretension. Or follow up a graceful verse about the afterlife of bugs and flowers with a third-grader’s chorus of “These flies and insects…are really weird.” And though he must be aware of how agile and multifaceted and capable his mind is, he sometimes seems like he’d rather not be bothered with it. “It would just a relief to see…I’m just a natural thing,” he says in “To Be Objectified.”




cuddlefish said...

This is one of the albums that I have not got around to listening yet. Time to bump it up in the queue.

jenniferpkelly said...

It's good...a little bit precious, IMO, but still good.

cuddlefish said...

Just listening to this now. It reminds of Pencils Down by The Metasciences.