Jandek, cult enigmatic avant-garde indie idol has announced a date in Dublin – in the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College, no less, on the 13th June 2008. He has released thirty-something albums over the last thirty years but only played his first gig in 2004. I went to see him last March at the South By South West Festival in Austin, Texas. I had only ever heard one song by him, which was pretty unmemorable but I thought he’d be worth checking out because he was such a reclusive cult hero that didn’t play many gigs. And the fact that this performance was in a church added to the possibility of it being a bit of an event. Outside the church, there was a bunch of people trying too get in to the gig which was packed to capacity. As people left, and it became apparent rather quickly that there was a fairly steady stream of people leaving, they let more people in. So, I sat down and watched. It didn’t take me long to realise that Jandek’s music was, as they say, ‘difficult’ but there is music which I’ve found ‘difficult’ on first listen but over time has emerged as rather brilliant to me. After about ten minutes, I had realised that Jandek’s music was not just ‘difficult’ but, frankly, rather shit. For the most part, it involves out-of-tune strumming matched with out-of-tune caterwauling backed by random ‘free-jazz’ drumming (i.e. if drumming can be tuneless, it would have been tuneless). Now, I’m quite a fan of both out-of-tune strumming, out-of-tune caterwauling and even, occasionally, random ‘free-jazz’ drumming but I can also smell a big bag of poo when I’m sitting in the same room as it.
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the audience were there for the same reason as me – To see who this mysterious Jandek guy is that they had heard about and possibly catch hold of one of those “you shoulda been there” gigs. In this case, you’re much better off having not been there. I’m sure there are people out there who will disagree with me but I believe Jandek’s infamous cult stature doesn’t really have anything to do with his music. It is purely about the myth.
A band whose indie cult stature is about the music, however, is Godspeed You Black Emperor who announced this week that they are no more. I saw them in the Music Centre a good few years ago (I guess it was 2000 but I could be wrong) backed with Sigur Ros and I think Fly Pan Am as well, which was quite a bill. It was an excellent night and Sigur Ros were particularly good that night, backed with stunning footage of Icelandic landscapes. And I also saw off-shoot band, A Silver Mount Zion in Whelans shortly after, which was also rather excellent. Godspeed’s sound is perfectly summed up by the word ‘apocalyptic’. It has the ability to be intense, beautiful, life-affirming, frightening, exciting and tragic all within the matter of minutes. I don’t think it’s a surprise that when searching for Godspeed videos on YouTube, you’re presented with loads of videos involving explosions, rockets, war and the likes as it matches the music almost too well. So R.I.P Godspeed. And here’s one of those apocalyptic videos I was talking about…
Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls: