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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh You’re So Cute, Jens

posted by on March 26 at 13:17 PM

I used to feel a little uncomfortable at Murder City Devils shows back in my awkward teens. Their audience had this whole, over-the-top skulls’n’switchblades Outsiders thing that I wasn’t that into, and I always felt a little out of place at the concerts. Part of it was wanting to fit in with them, I’m sure, but a (bigger?) part of it was just being none too impressed with the crowd’s vintage tough guy (and gal) aesthetic. It was so simple, reductive, cliché even. But I loved me some Murder City. All of which is to say this: You can love a band and not their audience.

So it was at last night’s Jens Lekman show for at least one of my companions who seemed to enjoy the music but couldn’t stand Lekman’s disciples (Lekmaniacs?)—twee, twittering, besweatered fans who really did squeal with delight at Lekman’s every precious gesture. “This is the most annoying crowd I have ever seen,” she said. “They all need to be gassed.”

Personally, I thought the crowd was fine, if obviously smitten. “You’re my fucking hero, Jens,” shouted one man. “You’re fucking hot,” shouted another, later. And to be fair, Lekman’s story (young man uses music to escape from stifling, small hometown of Kortedala) is kind of heroic—he says that Kortedala is like a labyrinth, “easy to get into, but impossible to get out of,” saying that he has to get google maps to guide cab drivers out of the place. And his music (soft rocking, sunny, ’70s-styled pop jangle with live and sequenced strings, songs that sounds like they belong in some faded, romantic movie) is gorgeous, and I suppose he’s hot in an Ikea-pitchman sort of way.

His band’s synchronized dance moves (pointing at imaginary watches, beckoning “come hither”) and his banter (“Why do you write so many songs about girls, Jens?”—he’s like a Swedish Kaz Nomura, or Kaz is like a Japanese Jens) are cute. His voice is golden and resonant like Stephin Merrit’s—”It’s like he’s flipping a switch and all of a sudden he’s Merrit,” said my skeptical friend—and his anecdotal story-song about traveling to Berlin and finding himself pretending to be his lesbian friend’s fiance to placate her traditional German father was funny and charming in a way that not enough of Stuart David’s numbers ever were.

Annoying fans or no (I vote no), Lekman’s live show wins out. I imagine I’ll be spending much of this week and weekend reexamining Night Falls Over Kortedala and maybe tracking down his older works.

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I got there late, but it seemed like he dipped a bit into the back catalog with "Maple Leaves". Did they also do "Black Cab". Both are worthy entries into his older material.

By the way, I can't see the Stephin Merrit comparison. Maybe that's just because I can't see a happy and Stephin Merrit co-existing.

Posted by josh | March 26, 2008 4:26 PM

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