Whilst its apparent that New York's anti-folk scene is fast descending into farce (after all, does the world really need three spin-off solo albums from the Moldy Peaches?), it has at least generated one idiosyncratic talent whose muse is most likely to transcend the pitfalls of any homogenised genre - comic book artist turned songwriter Jeffrey Lewis. Picking up from where last year's The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane and Other Favorites debut left off, this second full-length outing sees Lewis broaden the musical base for his satirical cartoon-ish storytelling, mixing stripped-down bedroom-based monologues with newer band-orientated material laid down with brother Jack Lewis (bass) and friend Anders Griffin (drums).
Things begin brilliantly with the one-chord acoustics of "Back When I Was 4," wherein Lewis compresses his - artistically licensed - life story (from the ages of 4 to 128, no less) into four wryly acerbic minutes. A musical volte-face soon follows with "No LSD Tonight," a bizarre blast of punkabilly pop that offers a riposte to those who misinterpreted Lewis's first album as a drugs-endorsing enterprise. The mangled Velvets-inspired likes of "Graveyard" and "Texas" offer more of such amp-sizzling shakedowns further into proceedings. Keen not to vacillate too obviously between minimal and manic presentations, Lewis finds room to manoeuvre, chameleon-like, into an avant-folk middle-ground. Hence the instrumental "Zaster" is a hypnotic loop of backwards guitars that passes as a pleasing Papa M impression, and the sublime "Sea Song" (complete with brushed drums and dolphin samples) is six minutes of womb-like serenity that makes a courteous nod to David Grubbs.
Whilst such maturity beckon and calls, Lewis still slips back into the same juvenile dementia that has destroyed many of his lesser brethren. Thankfully though, Lewis is smart and funny with it, so while "If You Shoot the Head You Kill the Ghoul" may draw most of its lyrical inspiration from Scooby Doo, the blistering twang of the cowpunk backdrop (à la The Violent Femmes) displays a rigorous appreciation of skewed hook-heavy melodies. Moreover, anyone doubting Lewis's gift for dry-witted couplet or two should investigate the delightful "Don't Let Record Label Take You Out to Lunch," for a cynical - but frightening accurate - observation on the underbelly mechanics of the music industry. With more than just one musical and lyrical trick up his tatty T-shirt sleeves, Jeffrey Lewis is anti-folk's uncelebrated saviour. And if you have ever wondered what happened to Charlie Brown when he finally grew up and swapped stifling American suburbia for big city smoke, then this album should present you with some hugely entertaining scenarios.