“If I can keep myself from thinking for the rest of my life, maybe I’ll survive this fall.” – Jeffrey Lewis
Jeffrey Lewis, the famed comic book artist and occasional singer / songwriter delivers an exceptionally agonizing diddy filled with a deceivingly optimistic tone, catchy refrain, and the sliver-sharp wit that requires, no, DEMANDS repeated listens. Titled Broken Broken Broken Heart, Jeffrey Lewis and his backing band, The Junkyard, spawn a candy-coated razorblade of nervous sensitivity, discretely masked inside an anti-folk pop song, and it’s nothing short of blissful ear bourbon.
We aren’t meant to sympathize with Mr. Lewis, or whatever character he is when speaking in the first person. His over-analytical observations of (failed) relationship-causing pain are muted and all but ignored after evidence is revealed as to the cause of his (much deserved) heartache: being cruel and curious.
I’m stuck in a Jeffrey Lewis rutt as of late, and it seems as though a few times a day I need to squeeze in a quick listen, usually to the three or four key tracks off this album (2009’s ‘Em Are I). Jeffrey’s is a story of success by self-deprecation. Mix that with hooky guitars and soul-baring honesty, and you’ve got the ingredients for an emotional cocktail you’re not soon to forget.
It’s comforting, just how powerful the sadness of others can be. One man’s sadness is another man’s solace, I always say (I’ve never said that). I’m not saying go out and make someone cry, I’m just saying the emotional release that some artists offer can be a wonderful companion.
While painting pictures of our ancestors desecrating the Plaines of our nation’s majestic beauty, Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard offer a beautiful imagine of how the diseased minds of those ancestors would respond upon seeing their failed endeavors being overtaken by beautiful, luscious flowers. “Let us sacrifice our time, our family’s time, our souls, our worries, and our lives to the building of this conveyance called, the railroad… then lets abandon our progress and allow for nature’s beauty to restake her claim,” said no one ever! Probably because “restake” isn’t an actual word.
Bugs & Flowers is a rolling wave of solace. It’s that much needed alleviation when you had no Earthly idea you were in desperate need of it. Clocking in at 4:13, Bugs & Flowers is the comfort from a loved one that you want never to leave your side, but eventually always does. The entire album could be this song repeated, 11 times and show no hint of getting old. Melancholy is a powerful thrill.
Throughout the song, Mr. Lewis talks of taking a solitary walk in the forest over a series of deteriorating crossties. Along this self-reflecting journey, he comments on the backs of shiny bugs, infinite dust, and crosstie devouring flowers.
It’s difficult sometimes, when the whiskey takes over. It’s as though solemn innocence loses its struggling will to survive. Lucky for me there’s a soundtrack to this struggle.