Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Morning Rock: A Few Words About Marshall Crenshaw's "Jaggedland"


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.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Sal! Sally! Sal-yoooch! Glad to see you again, as it were. I promise to listen to Stormy River when I get home tonight. Scout's honor.

regards,

RichD

Shriner said...

I've often wondered how his experiment with releasing EPs through his web site only are going...

JAYESSEMM said...

Wow!

What else do I have in my record collection that I don't play enough?

Thanks for the prompt.

Ken D said...

I think I own every Crenshaw release on CD, but being sans turntable for years, I'm left out of the EP project. I'm hoping he'll compile all that material on a CD at some point...
I saw MC a few weeks ago backed by The Bottle Rockets. Sheer delight. Pray they come to your town.
Another delight is "The Bottomless Pit," MC's radio show:
http://www.wfuv.org/audio/archives/bottomless-pit/bottomless-pit-83014
As you can probably guess, Crenshaw is a household name in my household anyway...

vanwoert said...

I also love Jaggedland, but not as much as I love #447. An album that I play in my house as much as I do Field Day, which is about the highest praise I can give it.

A walk in the woods said...

Sal, did you notice Marshall's Facebook site specifically references this entry on Burning Wood today? So cool!

Go to:

https://www.facebook.com/MarshallCrenshawOfficial?fref=nf

Bruce Kelly said...

Well, you persuaded me to give this another try. I love Marshall Crenshaw. His music meant a lot to my wife and me, and we had a great time seeing him perform live several times (even the time when before the show a woman standing near us had a dispute with another woman and smashed a glass on her forehead) and got to talk with him a few times. BUT I could not get into Jaggedland. It was just "OK" for me. I'll give it another shot.

buzzbabyjesus said...

This tune sounds like CC Adcock in a good way.

cmealha said...

For you, I will. Actually, for me, I will.

A walk in the woods said...

Also, that is a killer song - great call to revive the topic of this album. It didn't resonate quite as strongly with me at first as "What's In That Bag?" - which actually might be my overall favorite Marshall Crenshaw album - until I saw Marshall in Atlanta in a solo acoustic show. He did several songs from Jaggedland and then I GOT it - the songs are sublime, the playing is fantastic. A treasure of an album.

salhepatica said...

Ken D: All of Marshall's EPs are on iTunes. They don't show up immediately as he gives the vinyl EPs a period of exclusivity, but they all show up there eventually. Don't know if they're on Amazon. There are four of them so far with two more scheduled to come.

Mike said...

Well said Sal and I agree with everything you wrote. Nora and I still try to see him when he's in town. Two years ago we saw him at BB King's doing Beatle covers with Glenn Burtnik and he was great. I think those who really know music have the same respect for Marshall. I'll be playing Jaggedland all week...Thanks.