Jandek - Glasgow Monday (Corwood 2xCD)
I wish I could tell you the story of Jandek to pad this review out, but it's not like you don't know it already. So I'll lay the facts down bare - "Glasgow Monday" is Jandek's 47th release (fourth album this year), second double album and third live album. It's also a recording of his third show ever, culled from a performance in Glasgow on May 23rd 2005 featuring the classic "power trio" Jandek lineup which also has Richard Youngs and Alex Neilson. This time though they switch it up quite a bit - whereas the first couple of shows featured Jandek on guitar/voice, Youngs on bass and Nielson on drums, this time around Jandek is on piano/voice, Youngs is on upright bass and Nielson on "quiet percussion". Rather than the blues rock numbers found on "Glasgow Sunday" and "Newcastle Sunday", this album is an 85-minute long song dubbed "The Cell" with Jandek's ivory-tickling and stark narration obviously at the forefront. If you've ever heard the sidelong piano improvisation on 1999's "The Beginning", multiply that by about six and you've got a ballpark to work in, despite the fact that "The Beginning" is entirely instrumental. And also if you're familiar with that tune, you're probably wise to the fact that Jandek can genuinely play the piano, a trait he exhibits rather impressively on "Glasgow Monday". I've heard comparisons to Erik Satie, and while I'm no Satie scholar, I wouldn't call an accusation like that entirely unfathomable.
For the first few tracks (the first disc opens with "Prelude" and the rest of the songs are titled parts one through nine), it sounds like Jandek is playing solo, or with very little contributions from Youngs and almost none from Nielson. In fact, Youngs only ever really adds gentle scrapings and slight glints from his instrument - never any full-blown sawing or anything like that. Nielson for the most part serves up barely-there cymbal rubbing and chime/bell quivering (particularly on "Part Five", the disc two opener). Basically the duo are used to prop up Jandek's exquisitely lonesome surrealist monologues and gentle piano plodding. His words deal with a whole heck of a lot of subjects (mostly self introspection, being alone and asking "what do I have?") but never seem to hold any cohesion, which is probably par for the course. Nevertheless they tumble along beautifully and he never uses the atonal shout found mostly on his earlier albums so you're able to lock in and drift along with Jandek's hands and his timbre for the whole set. Played the whole way through, "The Cell" can be quite a beautiful, baffling, affecting piece...just like a whole lot of the other 46 Jandek albums.
If you're like me and tend to stick around for only the more notable points in Jandek's discography (the first acoustic ones, the acapella trifecta, the live ones, "The Beginning", "Lost Cause", the first albums from his second/"modern" acoustic phase, etc) then you definitely don't want to miss "Glasgow Monday". Youngs and Nielson's obscenely understated backdrops do wonders for Dr. J's desolate recitations - both vocally and on the Schimmel. And if you never got into Jandek or understood the appeal...then this just may be The One.