Cast: Jandek, Alex Neilson, Richard Youngs
lasgow Sunday is an incredible document of a gig that nobody thought would ever happen, the hermetic hermit Jandek’s first-ever live show in a twenty-six year self-sustained career. To add a spanner to the already miraculous, his band (Glasgow residents Alex Neilson and Richards Youngs) had only met him a matter of hours before, and barely had a chance to feel out what was going to happen during their improvised rhythm section assistance. This doesn’t sound like something any regular artist, or anyone other than a masochist, would want to capture for posterity. Anyone who has already heard the bootleg or the official recording knows that the show managed to pull off several shitkickingly amazing feats, leaving plenty of the Jandek myths intact.
Since coming out of hibernation to play live, the big questions still haven’t been answered, but at least we have a real-time face to put to the music. Looking somewhat skeletal in his baggy shirt and fedora, Jandek is visibly controlled and nervous. He seems to relax into a smile after the initial applause; make a note of that: Jandek can smile. After stepping onstage into the spotlight, for the first ever Jandek live performance (pretty much unannounced to all but those who picked up on the “Corwood Representative” clue), he’s become even more overanalysed and dissected. If we can accept that the blues is not a genre but a path of expression, then it’s possible to see Jandek as part of the tradition (albeit an odd one).
His music isn’t as hard to get into as the hype might lead you to believe. It’s different, to be sure, but we aren’t talking about some radically new genre. It’s not so bizarre that the man need be regarded as some sort of shotgun crazy alien who crash-landed in Texas with an upside-down notation book. Before his recent live guerrilla actions, the theory of Jandek as some lone Lee Harvey Oswald figure saw him seemingly, permanently sidelined. His own lack of interest in explaining his music, and the brief work required to get below its surface, doesn’t lend itself to quick-fix commercial music press. Hopefully this DVD, and possible (?) forthcoming live performances, will open him up to an audience beyond the usual pale-skinned basement collectors.
There seems to be a general consensus amongst Jandekians that either the acoustic Blue Corpse or Chair Beside a Window are the best pathways into the man’s mindset. To me, Glasgow Sunday is the most accessible Corwood product yet, and an excellent starting point. Listening to some of his material can be draining, and in the case of his acapella releases, downright unsettling, but with these visuals, a little of that behind-the-mic mystery is levelled.
And don’t bother scouting the DVD for Easter eggs or commentaries. There’s a fairly standard menu of selecting individual songs or plumping for the whole show. It comes in a standard jewel case; and even features the exact same cover as 2005’s audio release of the show. The whole package seems to be trying to retain that air of mystique, but ownership of this live show creates an unavoidable humanising effect. There is a choice of camera views that can help with repeated viewings, with three different angles from which to view the performance. There’s “Camera One,” almost exclusively focusing in on Jandek; “Camera Two,” which takes the back-of-the-room long view (with sporadic close-ups of Neilson and Youngs); and an edit of these two viewpoints.
The choice of Glasgow’s The Arches as the venue for his debut show may have been just a matter of the right time / right offer, but it adds further germane layers to the show’s out of reality/time moment. Looking like a strange cross between The Cavern and a fetish club show dungeon, the setting has a simple dark look perfect for this birthing. The music doesn’t call for any quick edits or snazzy FX, so the post-production doesn’t add them; this is a no-frills affair. The trio’s performance is pretty much peerless. The obvious appeal of seeing Jandek up close is equally matched by Neilson’s ever-moving flourishes and Youngs incredible, exploratory bass.
There is one issue that can make this release, as well as several other live releases on Corwood, stick in the throat more than a little. Keeping the same simple fonts and ideas of his label’s release, he steers clear of all personal info—including this performance’s line-up. Without Youngs and Neilson, the show would be lacking the vital energy that makes this such a vital document. Glasgow Sunday would likely have ended up as more a curio in the catalogue than the Jandek career adrenaliser for which it happily functions. The lack of credit on this DVD (or the audio disc version of the show) and the Newcastle Sunday two-disc set is an appalling omission. Jandek may have a mystique and Corwood release format to keep up, but this seems a somehow churlish move in light of their contribution. His myth may serve as an apologia to some, but here, Youngs and Neilson are definitely not just a back-up band.
It’s obvious watching this trio perform that their chemistry needs to be explored as more than just a discography blip; further DVD releases would be very much welcomed. If you thought you weren’t ready for Jandek and the baggage, the obtuse tunings, and morosely delivered lyrics, this is the release to prove you wrong.
Glasgow Sunday is available on DVD.
By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2006-08-03