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The Lonesome Organist | Forms And Follies (Thrill Jockey)
No doubt buoyed by the enthusiastic endorsement bestowed by David Bowie in MOJO last year, Jeremy Jacobsen (who is 99.9% of The Lonesome Organist) belatedly returns with his first album since 1999's much celebrated 'Cavalcade'. A one-man-band through and through, Jacobsen has wooed the wilfully obscure music-loving world with his perverse amalgamations of jazz, country, circus music and blues-rock, as well as through his ambidextrous ability to play harmonica, drums, guitar and keyboards simultaneously. Whether such freakish (and borderline schizophrenic) behaviour manifested itself in the recording of this latest long-player is unclear (although copies of the album are accompanied by an explanatory flip-frame "movie" book) but it's certainly apparent that this is a man trying to make the most of some kind of attention deficit disorder. As a result 'Forms And Follies' collects together fourteen largely instrumental conceptions that are desperately in search of a film or TV soundtrack (or even an ad break) to impregnate. Powered by wobbly accordions and plonking percussion, the carnival-esque Blue Bellows and its vaudevillian sibling, The Victory Of Sheila's Nap, both bridge the gap between 'The League of Gentlemen' and 'Amelie'. Elsewhere, the calypso-slanted steel-drums of The Cold House Is A Harsh Mistress seem destined for a tropical fruit drink commercial, whilst the eerie multi-tracked doo-wop vocals of Only If I Get You and One Of Me would best suit a remake of Dennis Potter's 'The Singing Detective'. As entertaining as such rabid eclecticism is, at times Jacobsen misfires his moodswings, by giving himself over to sickening and showy self-indulgence. Which means that Who's To Say Your Soul's Not Carbon delivers a diabolical slab of sub-goth metal and the smarmy Tortoise impression of The Moon Fugue goes nowhere but up Jacobsen's own backside. But peculiarly, for a man who prides himself on genre-switching within the space of just one song, Jacobsen's best moments here find him sat alone with only one instrument and one stylistic precept, hence the inclusion of two beatific, almost neo-classical piano pieces - Four Notes and Postlude To A Happy Ending - which conclude 'Forms And Follies' with some much needed grace and subtlety. A real mongrel mix of an album all told, with Jeremy Jacobsen proving to be a jack of many trades, and a master of some.
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003