Rough Trade 10th october 2011
Initially A Turn in the Dream-Songs plays out as a far less angsty affair than other helpings from New York based musician Jeffrey Lewis. Certainly in recent years he has had something of a prolific output – this latest being his sixth release with the UK label Rough Trade – and the 13 tracks comprising it, recorded onto two-inch analogue tape at Manchester’s Analogue Catalogue studio, show there is little letting up in the talent of our comic book songwriter.
Opener ‘To Go and Return‘ combining the mandolin of Wave Pictures member Franic Rozycki with woodwind accompaniment starts off proceedings with a far more laidback vibe than the urgency of previous works, while follower ‘How Can It Be‘ returns to sophomoric, catchy lyricisms in the form of a break-up song complete with West Coast harmonies. As the record spins out however there are recurring themes of loneliness, friendship (or at least on ‘Try it Again’ of the failure in finding it), growing old, getting lost and suicide. As ever these scenarios are presented in the quirky, often grotesque humour only Lewis knows how to execute with such smirking despair. A botched wrist slitting in ‘So What If I Couldn’t Take It’ leaves our storyteller imagining being encased in a scabbed over bloodied bathtub, while somehow a seemingly banal tale of eating dinner alone in a restaurant leaves an empty sort of feeling thanks to the repetition of lyrics from our protagonist which prove to emulate the rituals and mundane tasks of everyday life.
Comprising the Lewis band on this outing are, alongside Rozycki, members of Johnny Flynn’s backing band The Sussex Wit pitching in on drums, bass and cello; while friends from Dr. Dog, The Vaselines, Au Revoir Simone, Misty’s Big Adventure and Schwervon! assist elsewhere along the trip. It’s a pessimistic cloud with a humourous lining if ever there was one. In ‘Cult Boyfriend’ for example Lewis takes a stab at himself and his hown hispter/cultdom appeal: “If I’m really all that awesome wouldn’t more people think so?” he accuses, completely with Wave Pictures inflected guitar solos.
While for the most part A Turn in the Dream-Songs it is a more restrained and composed recording musically, with the live and energised feel on the full band tracks captured through takes of the musicians playing as one, there is a feeling of disillusionment that runs throughout. We just have to hope this is an adopted persona and not the man himself, though we doubt Jeff Lewis has the time to care how many fans he gains or what rating Pitchfork give him when he’s so busy illustrating for the likes of the History Channel or churning out more tunes like these.
BBC Culture Show Interview (2008)