You can instantly spot a kooked-out, modern day folk/slacker/cartoonist/singer-songwriter. I mean, he' so keen to avoid pigeonholing he releases an album too long for W&H's typesetting system to cope with. Ha!
Seriously, though, New York's deliciously oddball, acid-soaked troubadour JEFFREY LEWIS is busily inventing a special genre for witty, wordy and zonked-out folk/pop, the likes of which we've rarely seen buzzing our skies previously. His debut album revelled in he immortal title of "The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane" and the charmingly-monikered "It's The Ones Who've Cracked That The Light Shines Through" takes the strummed acoustic'n'stoned reverie formula to new heights altogether.
This time, Jeffrey's accompanied by supple-fingered younger sibling Jack on bass and drummer Anders Griffen, and while the acoustic framework often still dominates, tracks like the frantic "Texas", the creaky railroad rockabilly of "Graveyard" and the brilliant "No LD Tonight" all rock hard in an early-Sebadoh-frisk-The-Fall kinda way.
Elsewhere, Jack and Anders make their presence felt in more subtle ways; contributing
the unobtrusive brushwork and gentle see-sawing musical shifts that emphasise
the nautical imagery of "Sea Song" and staying restrained and drone-y
until the very final crunching section of "Arrow" kicks in. Then there's
the viola that frames "Alphabet" and the gentle piano part buoying
up the closing "You Don't Have To Be A Scientist To Do Experiments On Your
Heart": both of which are simple, but thoroughly effective.
Typically, though, it's Lewis' potty lyrical concerns that really drag you in. The opening "Back When I Was 4" is a dazzlingly funny look back on love, life, minutiae ("sitting on a crowded beach, I'd pretend I was a leech") and, er, goldfish; "I Saw A Hippy Girl On 8th Avenue" sounds like early Elliott Smith with a humour transplant and "Don't Let The Record Company Take You Out To Lunch" (sample lyric: "So you get a good review, then you get a bad review, so don't get suckered either way, cos they don't know you") offers the sort of sage advice only an old head on young shoulders can muster.
Roughly equal parts Woody Allen, Stephin Merritt and (far less cantankerous)
Lou Reed, Jeffrey Lewis is wry and acidic in the way only the finest New Yorkers
can be. Despite this, he apparently spends most of his summers cooped up in
a remote Maine shack cooking up these weird missives, so if that's what it takes,
let's hope his splendid isolation isn't disturbed.
Whisperin and Hollerin 7/10