Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn In The Dream-Songs

If it’s not broke, whatever you do, please please, don’t fix it.

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In a musical landscape where the dictionary definition of angst and heartbreak is Adele, eyes tightly closed, warbling away with jazz hands, thank heavens for the return of Jeff Lewis. Six albums in, ‘Turn In The Dream-Songs’ finds our antifolk hero sounding like he’s (still) romantically in pretty bad shape. Broken hearts, broken mosquitoes, girls dating boys that aren’t him but should be him, complete mental breakdowns, they’re all documented here. So then, it’s business as usual for Lewis’ sixth outing, but if it’s not broke, whatever you do, please please, don’t fix it.

You see, unlike all those sincere (boring) balladeers currently dominating the airwaves, when Jeff Lewis is having a rum do, his chronicles are filled with limitless whimsy, wit and self deprecation. Even as he discusses a failed suicide attempt by way of drinking rat poison on ‘So What If I Couldn’t Take It Anymore’, he’s giving himself a 3.6 from Pitchfork for his effort and considering the alternative option of using a chopstick to do the job instead. And it’s impossible not to disregard the subject matter and smile a little to yourself. ‘How Can It Be’ might be nabbing it’s subject matter wholesale from ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’, but Lewis effortlessly makes us believe that Joe Jackson missed a trick when he didn’t make that sound like the soundtrack to a lost Jim Henson film too.

‘Cult Boyfriend’, on which Lewis likens himself to “a record in a bargain bin, no one really knows what it’s worth until a collector comes in” and finishes by stipulating that “this record probably ain’t gonna go beyond an open mic, it’s guaranteed though, two or three people are really going to like it” exemplifies Lewis’ stream of self-conscious lyrical styling. Musically, it’s not going beyond a couple of riffs, repeated ad infinitum, and yet somehow our Jeffrey comes out of it all reeking of genius. It’s in those small details of life that Lewis describes so brilliantly, ‘When You’re By Yourself’, examines the fear of eating in a restaurant alone, needing the bathroom and having to take your bag, whilst trying not to like you’re running out on the bill. As he details the experience, completely matter of fact, you find yourself wryly agreeing with his sentiment, because whether you’re ensconced in glorious couple-dom, we’ve all shared that experience at some time or another. And once you’ve agreed with him, you’re on his side all the way.

In light of the tone of the rest of the album, closing with a rap number might seem a little unexpected, and admittedly ‘Mosquito Rap’ could’ve fallen straight off the back of a Moldy Peaches’ lorry. “If you come in like a sucker, you could go out like one”, it turns out that Jeffrey Lewis isn’t just a brilliant lyricist (and Lord Jarvis Cocker said so, so it must be true) and a probable rubbish boyfriend. He’s a badass too. Albeit, only when there’s a little mosquito in the room. I’m pretty sure the rest of us are safe.
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