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Monday, February 25, 2008

Jeffrey Lewis: Fucking Awesome

posted by on February 25 at 11:25 AM

Jeffrey Lewis is fucking awesome. His songs are clever and funny and genuinely felt; his voice is ragged, flat, and pinched in all the right places; he and his band, the Jitters, are confident and capable enough to ramble and improvise without missing a beat, simultaneously sloppy and sharp. Lewis and the Jitters played two shows this past weekend—Saturday night opening for the Mountain Goats at Neumo’s and Sunday at the Dearborn House in Wallingford. Each set was a mix of Crass covers (from his recently released 12 Crass Songs) and Lewis originals, and each set was completely different.

Of the latter, Neumo’s probably got the better set, including a song about meeting Will Oldham on the subway, in which Lewis asks him if it’s worth being an artist, and Oldham beats him up, ties him to the subway tracks, and fucks him (“artists are pussies”); a song warning that there’s no such thing as a free lunch on the record label; and a “music video” (still projections of Lewis’ colored, hand-drawn comics) about how Lewis used to dress like a hippie and his friend used to dress like a punk, but how they both “don’t look like much” now and, anyway, it’s what you’re like inside that matters. At the Dearborn House show, a benefit potluck for Hollow Earth Radio, the attendant mix of bike punks and preciously ugly sweaters (Twee.I.Y.) got a truly funny a capella “documentary video” about the history of writing, which Lewis delivered by flipping pages in his sketch book.

Both shows got a good mix of Crass, including “Walls (Fun in the Oven),” “Punk is Dead,” “Banned at the Roxy,” “Systematic Death,” “End Result,” and for his last song at Dearborn, the great “Do they Owe Us a Living?,” which couldn’t quite rouse the politely seated crowd for its call-and-response. That Crass’ right-on songs ring as true today as ever is both vindicating and depressing. That Lewis’ comfortable art-gallery crowd can’t be bothered to sing along is just typical.

Update: Two other Moments in Twee from the Dearborn show that I meant to mention: 1. Both a cat and a dog were wandering around the house/gallery space, and at one point Lewis said, “I think I own a bracelet made of hair from that dog.” 2. Lewis band twice overruled him when selecting the next song (they were playing without a set list), telling him first that one song was “too samey—no more songs in the key of G,” and telling him the second time, “You’re outvoted, this is what happens when you don’t have a set” to which Lewis replied, “No, this is what happens when you don’t realize your band has a leader.” Soooo cute!

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Posted by Nick | February 25, 2008 11:52 AM

man, i should have bought "12 crass songs" on saturday. jeffrey's versions of "punk is dead" and "banned at the roxy" were, as you pointed out, grandy, fucking awesome.

"the creeping brain" and its accompanying slideshow almost stole the show. if it were any other artist but the mountain goats, it probably would have. i don't think i've ever laughed so hard at a show.

what planet is this guy from, anyway? he's fucking rad!

Posted by douglas martin | February 25, 2008 12:03 PM

I love preciously ugly sweaters. I have one with a sunset on it. Their are gulls and the horizon line goes across the chest. Everything above is orange-ish, everything below is blue.

Posted by trent moorman | February 25, 2008 12:03 PM

I call Jeffrey Lewis "Boy Kimya."

Posted by Ari Spool | February 25, 2008 12:42 PM

"There are gulls" - obv.

Posted by trent moorman | February 25, 2008 12:49 PM

Jeffrey Lewis is a bonafide gem, one of the best ones out there, did he do the comic book songs? History of Communism in China etc?

Posted by Peknold | February 25, 2008 2:20 PM

Twee-IY? Hilarious.

Posted by Benji | February 25, 2008 3:54 PM

Ari - Do you know the EP he did with Kimya? It is awesome. It also has songs on it he recorded with Diane Cluck. (another gem)

Posted by whprwhil | February 25, 2008 4:13 PM


these are my favorites:

and another kimya fact: he did the cover art for "remember that i love you"

Posted by molly hamilton | February 26, 2008 9:05 AM

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