Let’s say Robert Crumb could play guitar and the Cheeky Geek was more sardonic than bloodthirsty. Now let’s say that there was some way for them to fall in love, reproduce and raise the child to be ultra-smart, super-creative and über-hip, Let us then suppose that said child resists the common urge to rebel against his parents and cultivates their teachings into a love of comic books (reading, writing and illustrating), folk music and a quirky, literate sense of humor. Now we flash forward a few years to find that, in addition to his talent for creating poignant comix, our little genetic hodgepodge also happens to be a pretty damn entertaining musician. Give him equally hip and like-minded friends like Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches and a little brother/band mate named Jack and set him loose in New York and watch the crazy shit he does.
Or just introduce yourself to Jeffrey Lewis. You may have seen his “Worldwide
Comix Scavenger Hunt” (yeah, right; only if your name is Jarry See or
Alan Moore) or the Moldy Peaches album cover he illustrated. Lewis also released
his critically acclaimed but largely ignored debut, The Last Time I Did Acid
I Went Insane And Other Favorites, in early September 2001. Hmmm, something
must have been distracting record buyers in Manhattan back then. No matter,
because Lewis has followed Acid with an even stronger effort. It’s the
Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through builds on the updated
East Village anti-folk sound but adds odd instruments such as viola, tamboura
and even an occasional less-musical accent like the gentle whale cries on “Sea
Song.” If you haven’t already figured it out, it’s useless
to look for innuendo or subtlety in any of Lewis’ art. Be it with his
excellent comics, lyrics or song titles, what you see is what you get. “If
You Shoot the Head You Kill the Ghoul” is no less the title of the 10th
track on the record than a fundamental and generally accepted fact of life.
Lewis may not be the most talented singer/songwriter in New York and It’s
the Ones Who’ve Cracked is far from compelling or groundbreaking but he
has not created a joke record, nor is he a novelty act. Jeffrey Lewis, in all
his many forms, is worth checking out.