Jesse Jarnow

the city & eastern tunes of jeffrey lewis

“Texas” – Jeffrey Lewis with Jack Lewis and Anders Griffin (download) (buy)
from It’s the One’s Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through (2003)

“The Murder Mystery” (Velvet Underground) – Jeffrey and Jack Lewis (download)
recorded 2002 July 31 Peel Session

“Don’t Be Upset” – Jeffrey and Jack Lewis (download) (buy)
from City and Eastern Songs (2005)

(files expire January 18th)

Besides the press release for the forthcoming Mountain Goats album, which he illustrated, I have never seen any of Jeffrey Lewis’s comics. Nonetheless, they seem such a vivid way to understand his music. On “Texas,” speech balloon call-and-response (“How’s the pizza?” “Fucking awful!”) spirals methodically into imagistic madness, ala the Velvet Underground’s “Murder Mystery” (covered by Lewis on a Peel session in 2002), or a one-sheet comic in an alt-weekly. Elsewhere, it comes through in alternatingly hilarious and narcissistic autobiography — at it’s best, both simultaneously, as on “Don’t Be Upset” — where Lewis appears, like a self-illustrated post-hippie narrator, ala Kim Deitch’s Alias the Cat. Or maybe it’s just the power of suggestion. Just knowing that Lewis is a visual artist almost makes one forget the anti-folk cuteness that marbles his urban chronicles. Whatever it is, it’s a voice, and one that’s been absurdly prolific over the past few years, with a lot to discover. (And don’t neglect his legit cartoon classic, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.”)

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