Can a product of art exist solely and separately, without any connection to its maker? I wondered about this while watching Jandek on Corwood, a documentary about an obscure singer/songwriter/moaner/chanter who goes by Jandek. He's put out many albums since 1978 and very little biographical information is known about him. Jandek has worked very hard to have no public persona; he participated in one telephone interview with John Trubee for Spin. You can listen to it here. You may contact him via the following address, printed on the back of his albums: Corwood Industries, Box 15375, Houston, TX 77020.
It's surprising that the film was made in 2003, but not surprising when you realize the talking heads are all stuck in the early '80's. I began to feel a nerd's affinity for them. They think Jandek wrote his songs in a mental institution. They think Jandek is on drugs. They think Jandek sings in an damp, empty basement in a house he never leaves. They are so cute. They talk about obscure music magazines that actually reviewed music, not just stuff that sells. My favorite talking head was the chubby one who said he alphabetizes Jandek under U, for Jandek's first album was released by The Units, a name he gave up for Jandek. Come into my arms, you sweet music heads, and I will listen to your stories of shaking Lita Ford's hand in Scotland.
Since the documentary had no footage to, well, document its subject matter, Chad Friedrichs and company used creepy, rustic, dilapidated Americana footage to fill up the film's visual space. Among these images: a loose, bloody brain in the middle of an empty bed. Second best is an overlay of a Jandek album cover, during which the moving photo makes the man blink his eyes. Jandek blinks his eyes scarily.
After the geeks, after the images, what we have is a strange set of albums. I have to admit that Jandek's sad, haunting music once forced me to pause the movie and close my half-open closet. Also, my cat sat at the edge of the sofa, staring at the front door as though something were going to surely burst through the apartment and slaughter us both.
Questions for Jandek: How many times have you Googled yourself? What is your approach to things like compact discs and the return of the bearded musician? Do you like the Fleet Foxes or The Devastations? Would you care for a cello in your band? (I too tune to my own needs. Just kidding). Do you like Buffy?
Comments, dear readers, are only open to the real Jandek.