Jeffrey Lewis and The Junkyard – Previewed

Jeffrey Lewis: 21st Century Troubadour…

First time we came across Jeffrey Lewis, our immediate thought was along the lines of: “Why listen to this guy when you’ve got x, y, z who already do this better and have been for years?” Harsh sure, but fair, too. Or so we thought.

He’s not unaware of this himself, even acknowledging the same concern (among myriad others) on Williamsberg Will Oldham Horror, supposing even Will Oldham has occasion to ponder: ‘Yep, people like me but I won’t be that good, ever.’ In this case, it’s in the shadow of Dylan he projects Oldham’s imagined inferiority.

However, it seemed to us the most obvious comparison was with fellow New Yorker, and sometime Moldy Peaches man, Adam Green. The cynics of this world (not us, you understand) often blindly swear by their gut reactions and judgements; having an opinion and sticking to it is a sign of strength, right? But in some cases, instinct can just as easily become prejudice, one which in this instance, we allowed to get in the way of our appreciation of Lewis for far too long.

Of course, he and label-mate Green certainly have things in common; they share a knack for observation, each expressing said observations through song-driven stories. But for the most part, this is where the easy comparisons end. While Green often concerns himself with training his cross-hair on, and taking great delight in puncturing life’s grimy – often cruel – underbelly, Lewis is far more likely to look and find room for dreams and optimism, however scant.

On 2009’s Objectified, he forlornly sings about how nice, if only for once, the experience of being the subject of objectification would be, how it would come as a relief. While on Roll Bus Roll, he contemplates Harlem’s looking ‘so warm tonight’ and how a rolled-up sweatshirt is making ‘the windows soft’. It’s the little things that Lewis finds pleasure in and cherishes, and it’s this reverie fans can share in.

For all of this, he is not without his rougher edges and it is this resulting caustic optimism which makes him so sweetly irresistible, a quality doubtless undervalued in the modern troubadour. It is this very quality which sets him just enough apart from even his nearest contemporaries, and that’s more than good enough for us.

Jeffrey Lewis and The Junkyard 9pm @ The Kazimier £8 Friday 24th August Supported by Loved Ones, James Canty and White Bicycles

Posted on 15/08/2012 by thedoublenegative