Monday, April 25, 2005

Still catching up with Jennyanykind

If you've been reading Mystical Beast for a while, you've heard me rave about Jennyanykind's one and only major label album Revelater, in which a previously indie shoegaze type band ditched that skin and turned into semi-slacker Americana (Dylan, etc.) with surprisingly fantastic results. It remains one of the best CDs that you can count on finding used for less than $1 (one cent at Amazon, at press time).

The follow up to that, Big Johns, was a smaller affair, coming out on a little label and recorded at home. While it's not bad, I've always felt like it walked a little too closely to alt. folk/country for my liking. I was vaguely aware that the band kept recording after that, but just assumed that they were going to continue in a stripped down vein. I also knew that they had an album called Peas and Collards. I'm not really a fan of the whole rootsy, down-homesy thing (or of Bob Dylan, actually), so I stayed away until recently, when I finally heard Peas and Collards while doing a bit on the Morisen label that released it, and discovered that it was better than I'd expected and more in a liquored-up and lazy swamp-blues vein.

So I decided to fill in the blanks, and a few weeks ago discovered that I'd totally missed their best album (unless the live disc that's on order blows my mind).

I Need You came out in 2000 and doesn't seem to have gotten much press nationally. Thanks especially to its production, it's a major change of direction after Big Johns. The band describe it as their dub album, which isn't totally off base. The vocals remain indisputably Dylan-esque (my wife always asks me why I'm listening to Bob Dylan when I play this, so I'm not just getting that from a press release) but the music is way stretched out and spacy, although the foundation remains shuffle-y drums, acoustic guitar, gritty electric guitar, and organ. What's interesting is that, at times, Jennyanykind seem to have arrived someplace not far from American Analog Set's early sound, though they got there via a completely different route. The most obvious example of that is Price Of Love.

The album has a tendency to get farther out as it goes along. My favorite tracks at this point are the last two. In A Village Square gets more and more trippy as it ambles towards its unresolved conclusion. And I Need You kind of flips back and forth between normal and weird, till weird wins in the end.

I can see why the record failed to thrive. It's clearly coming from a trad. Americana place, but the production positions it closer to drone/psych. It's an interesting mix that I haven't heard much of elsewhere (though late Yo La Tengo occasionally springs to mind, Jennyanykind's vocals are much more authentic sounding and really make a huge difference). Too southern for the Stereolab fans, too weird for the jam/alt. country set, it seems like a tough record to market. Allmusic says, "Mostly, though, this is music for the No Depression crowd," which is, I think, exactly wrong. In a way, Jennyanykind sometimes remind me of the Lilys, in the sense that after emerging from a noisy shell, they proceeded to take a sound from one genre and put it to a largely unrelated use, confusing everybody.

The band is pretty much defunct, but their website is still worth checking out (poke around and you can download some live tracks, and preview Revelater).

One of the twin brothers who fronted Jennyanykind is currently recording an album with Dean Wareham producing, and I'm extremely intrigued, though it's hard to tell from the demos on the site what this might end up sounding like.

Price Of Love by Jennyanykind
In A Village Square by Jennyanykind
I Need You by Jennyanykind

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