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Jandek on Corwood (2002)
A no-budget documentary on an elusive, prolific musician who became something of a cult figure after releasing numerous self-produced albums featuring his high pitched horse whine and simplistic strumming on an out-of-tune guitar. Even though many people agree that these songs could be easily classified as “awful,” there’s something hauntingly ethereal sounding about Jandek’s weird, unprecedented song craft; it sounds like a tormented ghost has haunted an acoustic guitar. All of Jandek’s numerous albums were released through a mysterious company called Corwood Industries operating out of Houston, Texas. Corwood seemed only to be in the “releasing Jandek records” industry only, and when fans wrote into the address printed on all the unassuming record covers, they’d receive sign post-cards and hand-written notes signed “Corwood” only. So who is this Jandek guy? What is Corwood industries? Why is he so private? Why has he only done two phone interviews since 1978? What’s his real name? What’s his method for writing and recording songs? And, most importantly, is he a crazy recluse or just a unique guy with a guitar?
Jandek on Corwood is wise to not try to answer all of these questions, but just collect and present the vital information on this colorful character and allow viewers to make up their mind. Plenty will absolutely hate the music, but nobody will be able to deny that it’s unlike anything they’ve heard before, or that the mystery of this weirdo isn’t somewhat compelling. The non-fussy style of the documentary is a perfect compliment to Jandek’s stripped down, deserted style, and while most of the people interviewed just come off as raving fans, they’re unique perspective as to why they find Jandek’s music interesting is compelling in its own right. Also, the movie is wise to save the real prize for last. An audio interview with Jandek concludes the film, and hearing him analyze one of his own songs gives the more insight than we could imagine about his character and personality, but also leaves even more confused and curious than before.
Since the films release, more information has surfaced about who this guy actually is, but like most of the interviewees in the film, I’d rather not know. It’s refreshing to have a musical artist become somewhat notorious for the lack of cultural information concerning them for a change. The mystery is frankly the most fascinating thing about Jandek because his music is so hard to process. But after listening to quite a few of his songs throughout the movie, I have to admit they started having an effect on me. I can’t really say I enjoyed listening to them, but I was curious to hear more.
Photo courtesy of jandekoncorwood.com