Jeffrey Lewis(external resources)
Jarvis Cocker says Jeffrey Lewis is the finest lyricist of his generation and coming from him that’s quite an accolade. We’re inclined to agree and really it’s quite undeniable when you hear him explain the history of communist China or being sexually assaulted on a train by Will Oldham through song with an ease that makes you forget he’s being limited by rhythm and rhyme. Jeff’s the product of loving beatnik parents who raised him in New York’s Lower East Side in a tenement apartment with no television (it seems they’re on to something there). Before Jeffrey could even read he was crazy about comic books, which is probably why listening to his lo-fi anti folk punk rock feels a lot like reading one.
Nearly all of his songs contain at least one killer lyric that you’ll want to tell people about when you hear it. This writer for instance has explained the storyline of ‘Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song’ to every friend and family member. Lewis’s themes may range from bad acid trips to politcal history and oral sex, but there’s an overriding preoccupation that tends towards the life affirming. Relentless positivity usually makes us puke, but how irresistible are lines like, “bad times give you something to talk about/the next time you feel you’re all worn out/remember life is a story, don’t you doubt/it only takes a day for everything to turn around”.
Some of us actually get jealous the first time we’re just about to play someone Jeffrey, because they’re going to get to spend the next few months picking out favourite lines and hanging on every word until a story ends. His songs are so full of self-deprecation, honesty, sadness, humour and truth that he’s nothing less than a gem to be held up and treasured. And in a world where a song that begins with the line “my life is brilliant” can stay at number one for over a month, we need that more than ever.