In June of 2001, I was interviewed for a music industry website about the then current state of music. I answered questions about retail, live music venues and Napster, among other things. One question was, "Do you foresee any breakout acts this year?" I replied, "I'm still waiting for Marshall Crenshaw to breakout, so I'm not a good person to ask."
In 2010, I wrote a brief snarky review of a Clay Aiken record which included the line, "Please buy Marshall Crenshaw's Jaggedland instead."
Yesterday, I took "Jaggedland" off the shelf and gave it a much needed spin.
I have been a fan of Marshall Crenshaw's music since the very beginning. From the Shake Records indie single "Something's Gonna Happen" right into the still stunning 1982 debut on Warner Brothers and continuing on through to the criminally underrated 1991 release "Life's Too Short." The first ten years of Crenshaw's career saw the release of 6 studio albums, while the last twenty years have only yielded 4. But at no time in Crenshaw's 30 year career has the man ever released anything but quality work and I am still puzzled that Crenshaw is not the giant he should be.
I am begging all of you to listen to "Jaggedland." It is a melancholy record, with some of Marshall's most beautiful ballads, but it also contains some of Crenshaw's most electric work. It does not have the young man's spirit or the layers of harmony that soaked the beloved debut, but it more than makes up for that with some serious songwriting from an older man with a heartful of soul.
If Crenshaw's name never comes up in your discussions about lead guitar players, give a listen to "Stormy River" and "Never Coming Down" and that will change. "Passing Through" and "Sunday Blues" should make you melt, two songs that perfectly manage both a dark and bright side, and arguably as good as anything the man has written.
It's not all dark. "Just Snap Your Fingers" recalls the great Dion DiMucci and the driving "Gasoline Baby," all 1:50 of it, is a killer.
But it is the title track, "Jaggedland," that really it me hard. It has always been my favorite on the record and yesterday's pass sealed it. An oddly gorgeous instrumental track, "Jaggedland" says more and evokes more feelings in less than three minutes than most songwriters could with a dictionary at their fingertips.
I would imagine all involved with the making of "Jaggedland," including drummer extraordinare Jim Keltner, the great Sebastien Steinberg from Soul Coughing and many others, inlcuding Neil Finn, and the great Mike Viola to name a few, were happy and proud of the finished product. I also wonder if, like me, all involved continue to shake their head in bemusement over the injustice of Marshall Crenshaw not being a household name.
A wave of emotion came over me, sending me into various wonderful places for 45 minutes, as I listened to "Jaggedland" again. That is not hyberbole. "Jaggedland" is a major achievement. Do yourself a favor and listen to it. It's what you and I have been clamoring about for years. Great songs. Great melodies. Great words. Great playing. No bullshit.