WTF?! Wednesdays: Jandek, “One Last Chance” (2001)

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Longtime readers of SER, if such an animal even exists, know that some of us like to indulge in noisy, nonsensical and just plain weird-assed music. Once in a while, we’ll encounter something from the margins that’s so beyond the pale it makes even hardened avantists like us do a double take and wonder, “what in the hell was that???” And it’s those such songs way out on the fringe of the fringes that call for a new weekly series, which we will call “WTF Wednesday.”

The inaugural song for this series isn’t even one I like, but it’s, um, fascinating. Jandek is perhaps the King of All That Is Wack, with his notorious reputation for cranking out lo-fi records that defy musical logic in any culture. And what’s more, he makes albums with the frequency of a bowel movement, and some would contend, produces pretty much the same end result. Even Irwin Chusid, an avid enthusiast of outsider music, stated in his book Songs In The Key Of Z, that he didn’t have any love for Jandek’s music, while realizing that no serious discussion of outsider music can exclude the hermit from Houston. I’d have to agree.

If you’ve reached this point and are still wondering who is this dude Jandek, it’s worth ninety minutes of your time to view this arresting documentary on one of the most enigmatic figures in (non) music.

Jandek’s preferred accompanying instrument is a guitar tuned in a way that only makes sense to him, but for his 30th reelase This Narrow Road (2001), it’s just Jandek singing a capella. That’s where the extra intrigue comes in; Jandek is just as visceral, just as brutally polarizing, and just as apocalyptic with only his voice. A voice that’s just as out of key as his guitar, too. “One Last Chance” is the long track on the album clocking in at twenty-nine and a half minutes, a rambling, stream-of consciousness warble of self-reflection and odd, creepy allegories, like,

I wanna be the driver
The one ridin’ in the trunk
With the rope around my feet and my hand
And a gag in my mouth

I listened to this half hour vocal hooha all the way through. Twice. And yes, you’re damned right I deserve a medal for that.

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