thu 02/02/2023

Album: Damien Jurado - Reggae Film Star | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Damien Jurado - Reggae Film Star

Album: Damien Jurado - Reggae Film Star

US artist's latest is singular to the point of opaque, but also often intriguing

Cover art as tricky to interpret as everything else about the album

American singer-songwriter Damien Jurado is both prolific and enigmatic. His latest album follows too many to count (OK, not really, I think this is his 20th). On his own label, it's as opaque as anything he’s done, and that’s saying something.

There are 12 songs, at least half of them around the two-minute mark, all opaque and mysterious, but also often fascinating. “What is he singing about?” the listener asks themselves, a sense of what’s going on elusive but also, tantalisingly, almost within reach.

A concept album, then? Kind of. There’s a very loose thematic of films sets. Possibly. Or perhaps just about being around the world of filmic work and the mysteries and mundanity of life. Possibly. The musical style varies, from the cocktail easy listening shuffle of “Meeting Eddie Smith” to the indie-bop of “Day of the Robot”, but at the heart of it all is Jurado’s strummed guitar and unique, attention-grabbing high-pitched voice, its plaintive urgency begging attention.

“Paper cutting/Lie detection/Avalanches/Taxidermy/Lack of season/Change location/Cloud replacement/Better scenery/Talking gibberish/Lower ceilings,” run some of the especially impenetrable list lyrics of “Ready for My Close-up”. And who are the characters referred to in the song titles; “Meeting Eddie Smith”, “Whatever Happened to Paul Sand?”, “Lois Lambert”, and then there’s Roger, who appears twice, in his titular number and another called “Roger’s Audition”? The songs themselves give little clue, yet still muster imagery that’s evocative.

The closing “Gork Meets the Desert Monster” typifies the best of the equally oddly titled Reggae Film Star, a solid song that conjures observational visions, both bland and mystical, ranging from “threatening the director” to “sleeping on the fold-out couch”. Despite its cryptic nature, this isn’t cerebral post-rock abstraction, these are red-blooded pieces that pull at the emotions, literate in construction. Damien Jurado is a one-off and his work remains intriguing.

Below: listen to "Whatever Happend to the Class of '65" by Damien Jurado

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