I saw 2 of my very favourite musicians this week. They have both inspired me in very different ways but both write the most brilliant lyrics.
Jeffrey Lewis is one of my all-time favourite recommendations (thanks Becky and Mark for handing me that treasured CD-R) but ironically he's one of the few musicians I never try to tell people about. I have almost no confidence that other people will see what I see in him and have been dumbfounded when people have heard his music and not loved it like I do.
I understand that he has a voice that might be grating to some people - but like many of my favourite singers he doesn't need an extensive vocal range to break your heart and make you glad to be alive. It's more about the way his voice cracks and breaks than trilling and fanciful singing. Less is more and all that. The way he says "Leonard Cohen?" in The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song was one of the first things to hook me into him.
Then I discovered brilliant lyric after brilliant lyric. Lyrics to make you smile even if he's writing about losing his mind or feeling futile and frustrated.
One of the few people that did get Jeffrey straight away is my lovely wife.
For someone that doesn't really like folk (or anti-folk) or listen to lyrics or, for that matter, most of the music I like it's almost miraculous that she LOVES him. But she does.
East River is one of our faves. The bit about him diving into the river and becoming scum and finding someone to become scum together with is awesome.
Anyway, back to the gig... it was Looking Rough At 30, a night in celebration of Rough Trade's 30th anniversary.
Jeff did lots of new material (including this which I've never heard before), all of which sounded great. Not a million miles away from his old stuff but just as funny, beautiful and brilliant - the best kind of folk (that a hippy-punk ever wrote). He also did his comic book rendition of the Life Of Barack Obama and Seattle which I love.
He signed a copy of his Fuff comic for me afterwards and I tried to talk to him about playing Nottingham the next time he tours. He took my email address but Bex and I were both suddenly a bit shy and so didn't chat for long. The last time we both saw him play in Nottingham I asked him to say "Leonard Cohen?" to Bex as he hadn't played 'The Chelsea Hotel...' and she loved it so much. He found it an odd request but did it anyway much to Bex's startled delight (who hadn't heard what I'd been asking him).
After Jeff came Jarvis.
He was so good. Funny, charming, full of great stories and, of course, everything a front man should be. He's now sporting a full beard (speckled with grey - he's 45, y'know?!) which he asked us to vote on mid-set...
Did we like it?
Did we think it made him look like Peter Sutcliffe?
First things first though, as he came onstage the band struck up and behind him onscreen it read:
"Good Evening Sheffield"
CHEERS FROM THE CROWD
"Are you alright?"
"I said Are you alright"
EVEN MORE CHEERS.
And so he proceeded through the usual introductory onstage patter but miming it out in front of a slide projector.
The slide projector was there as he was chatting in between songs and giving context (sometimes) to the evening/the music. My favourite slides included one of Lee Hazelwood with some children wearing fake Lee Hazelwood moustaches (I mistook the children for dwarves and told Bex to look away) and a black n white one of a miner stood next to a glam rock wrestler. Jarvis explained that they were father and son and that the wrestler didn't want to follow his dad down the pit so became a wrestler...who put make-up on his defeated opponents!
I had a mixed reaction to Jarvis' first solo album. Lyrically it was good but musically I felt it was a bit unadventurous and the songs didn't 'get me' in the same way his stuff with Pulp did.
Live though most of the songs sounded great and really benefitted from Jarvis's anecdotes and explanations (such as the inspiration for Big Julie). Black Magic in particular was awesome.
Of the new material I particularly enjoyed Bones, and the story behind Girls Like It Too. It's a line from a letter John Peel wrote to his teenage brother and, as Jarvis rightly stated, probably the best sex education advice you can ever get.
There's tons of things I missed but this is going on and on.
Check out Youtube for a barrage of mobile phone clips of the gig, like this one explaining how a new Jarvis song in inspired by his childhood fear of having maggots in his eyes!