I saw Jeffrey & Jack Lewis a few months ago opening up for Danielson at North Six in Brooklyn. I thought that lead singer Jeffrey was incredibly entertaining. He sang narrative songs as he flipped through a large comic book like a grade school teacher. The band instantly reminded me of The Violent Femmes because of Jeffrey Lewis’ relaxed, stoner-like voice like that of Gordon Gano. Lewis also uses his acoustic guitar like an electric guitar, which is always something that I have associated with Gano. The Violent Femmes play so freakin much around Chicago and Milwaukee, it’s hard for me not think of them from time to time.
Jeffrey was not only selling his albums, but comic books he had drawn. I really enjoyed the show while I saw it, but didn’t think about Jeffrey & Jack Lewis until Senior DuFour sent me their album, City & Eastern Songs. I didn’t put it together right away that I had seen this band live before, but as I listened to Jeffrey Lewis’ voice on record more and more, I put 2 and 2 together. I’m so smart.
Both me and my friend Brie agreed that the band sounded like The Femmes live and after listening to City & Eastern Songs with her last night, we both agreed that it was undeniable to compare Jeffrey & Jack Lewis to The Moldy Peaches. I really enjoyed The Moldy Peaches as a novelty record, but I do not consider this a novelty record. It’s funny, but not in a “Whose Got The Crack” kind of way that Adam Green and Kimya Dawson succeeded with. Jeffrey Lewis’ lyrics are thoughtful, self-questioning, and narrative. They’re childish and grown up at the same time. He’s very much from Brooklyn and writes very literally about his experiences around his Williamsburg life. You feel like he’s telling you stories on his couch as your passing around a bong.
I think that the band succeeds here more in their acoustic songs. Their electric songs lose the vulnerability and intimacy that the acoustic ones possess. The vulnerability and intimacy of Jeffrey Lewis’ voice is what makes his songs so great and believable. “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” has got to be one of the funniest, most introspective, and well thought out songs I’ve heard in quite some time. The song is about seeing Will Oldham on the L train and thinking about the pros and cons of indie rock stardom. It’s about a lot of other things than that, but the six minute song is a constant stream of consciousness that must have taken Jeffrey Lewis many takes to get right. He talks a mile a minute and doesn’t seem to get a breath of air. I highly highly recommend listening to this song. It’s absolutely fantastic and is undeniably the extreme highlight of the record.
Another highlight of the record is “Don’t Be Upset.” The song is about, among other things, a trip to the Aquarium where his “baby” gets scared of seeing the octopus. Lewis is so sincere that it’s hard not to love him. He’s so critical of himself in such an honest and interesting way that doesn’t seem too prevalent in music today. It’s a completely endearing quality that makes the record extremely enjoyable.