Monday, 25 August 2008

Corwood 0739 - Jandek: "Ready for the House"

Initially released in 1978 under the name The Units, "Ready for the House" is a revelation on every level and is simultaneously a deeply personal reflection on the artist's life, fears, desires and loves, and a radical deconstruction of what music is and what it can be. From its initial dark, pulsing, jarring rhythms to its final, desperate death throe vocal, this is an album of monumental significance.

Beginning with the transcendent blues of "Naked in the Afternoon", "Ready for the House" can be characterised by the artist's wistful, ghost-like vocals, and his discordant yet deeply poetic and beautiful guitar sound which veers in an instant from rhythmic and regretful strums to jagged and spiteful single dissonant jabs.

"Naked in the Afternoon" shakes and lunges forward with an unknown indignation stuck in its throat; the artist intoning with sarcasm; "You are a cowboy when you wear those boots...". The imagery is startling, dark and difficult to explain, almost dream-like in both its presentation and content. "Cave in on you" is similarly chaotic in its use of imagery, and disturbing, disjointed guitar - describing nightmarish scene's of "the blind man" who is gently tap-tap-tapping at your door in the moonlight behind the sun.

As "Ready for the House" progresses, the content seems to become increasingly personal to the artist, and can be witnessed in both the raw emotion in the artist's voice and his guitar. In "What Can I Say, What Can I Sing", the artist seems to paint through impressionistic and blurred images the story of two lovers, who have had to separate; "The early morning sun shines through, and all my thoughts are shades of blue... I already left, it's no surprise, I saw it in your raining eyes".

This theme is continued in "First You Think Your Fortune's Lovely", the album's foremost example of this deeply personal story telling style. "First You Think Your Fortune's Lovely" begins with the same, long-forgotten chord used in "Naked in the Afternoon", although this time, the artist's voice rings out to become a part of this. The unspoilt beauty and world-weariness of this opening line will reverberate forever inside anyone who hears it; "Everything's so restless, the wind has come again". The artist then proceeds to paint a picture through flashbacks to an isolated childhood set against a backdrop of idyllic Americana... "First you think your fortunes lovely, and you fly out through the door... Grandmama I feel... so lonely, my rapture's painted on the floor..."

These recollections lead on to reflections on a lost love, as the artist describes, with what appears to be a great amount of pain the loss; "I see your eyes a-flashing, Thunder in your hair, I burnt a match for your complexion, The lights went out and you weren’t there". The piece goes on to describe the narrator "seated by the ranch [he's] owning, staring at the cellophane", a scene of similar solitude to the one from his childhood... although this time, however, the solitude, however unwanted, is at least on the narrator's own terms - "I found a chair beside a window, I found a place where I belong". The last passage of this song tells the story's greatest tragedy, however - describing in deeply poetic terms how this solitude came to be... The artist tells us; "I curse the day I found my freedom, you took the mirror from the wall, placed it in a single suitcase, pointed down our hollow hall".

The album's final track, "European Jewel" is similarly empassioned, and this song has proved to be one of the most enduring from "Ready for the House". This time there is a repeated, descending guitar riff interspersed between the passages of the song, while desperate spiritual cries dissipate as quickly as they appear. The album ends abruptly as the tape is cut off during the last line of "European Jewel", with the line "There's bugs in my brain, I can't feel any pain, just a shaking shake..." cut short on the last syllable. This ending fits in perfectly with the mood of the album, and sets the scene for the unparallelled, unhindered and uncompromising ideology behind Corwood Industries.

"Ready for the House" is available for purchase from Corwood Industries, P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.

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