May 10, 2005

Various Artists: "Down In A Mirror: A Second Tribute to Jandek"

How do you pay tribute to an enigma? Is it possible to even begin to recreate that which is impossible to imitate? In the case of a musician like Jandek, it's tempting to say that any form of reproduction of his music is inherently going to be inferior to the original. But as this is Jandek and not The Three Tenors, determining what is inferior and what is superior is a rather relative concept. That's why Down In A Mirror: A Second Tribute to Jandek is somewhat fascinating. Here's a tribute record to an artist who's so obscure, many hardcore music fans haven't heard of him. His music is definitely an acquired taste; referring to it as "outsider art" is both apt and extremely generous. Even if you wanted to check out Jandek's music, you'd still have to do a lot of work to do so.

In its own way, Down In A Mirror serves a greater purpose. More people have dismissed Wilco than have ever heard of (or will ever hear) Jandek, and The Mountain Goats and Six Organs of Admittance have hipster name recognition, so getting those artists involved has probably helped give this release a bit more visability. It's almost a moot point--and terribly unfair--to attempt to describe these songs, because a. you've never heard the original versions and b. even the worst song on Down In A Mirror is more than likely better than the original version. You should still check this record out out, though, because Okkerval River's "Your Other Man," Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makoto's "Babe I Love You" and "With You Icon (An Homage)" by The Dirty Projectors are quite fascinating. Oh yeah, and Jeff Tweedy appears here, too, performing with his son, Spencer. I guess Jandek's fun for the whole hip family, then?

The world, it ain't ever gonna get Jandek. It probably ain't gonna hear him, either. So Down In A Mirror might be one of the few times you're exposed to the man, and it ain't a bad thing. Beats the hell out of another Beatles tribute, don't ya think?

--Joseph Kyle

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