Kid Icarus - "Be My Echo" (Summersteps, SUMM0010)
Various Artists - "Naked In The Afternoon: A Tribute To Jandek" (Summersteps, SUMM0016)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Looking at the cover of the newest Kid Icarus release, I was expecting something on the dark + creepy side - It's black all around with a kind of dark shadowy photo of the Kid himself on the cover. Surprisingly, it is in fact a very upbeat collection of songs which merge folk and indie moves with occasional echo-laden psych flourishes. The press release namechecks a lot of stuff (Can, Barrett, Robin Hitchcock) that I personally don't really hear. Many of the songs are stripped down to only acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals and remind more in approach of 60's protest folk - y'know, Dylan, Phil Ochs, that kind of stuff - 60's coffeehouse music. The lyrics aren't about the same topics or anything, but the sound is in the same ballpark. Some of the songs are a bit more rocking, fleshed out with nice fuzzy electric guitar, keys, some extra vocals. These songs also are played pretty loose, like they were just banged out real quick, and this gives things a nice feel of spontaneity. All in all it plays quite nicely. Extra points for the nice Roky Erickson cover ("Unidentified Flying Object")!
In addition to the Kid Icarus CD, the Summersteps label also recently took the plunge into the dreaded world of tribute records. While the whole tribute record thing has been pretty well done to death over the last decade I have to give credit where it is due, because this one (Jandek) is better than most. Also, it is focused on paying tribute to a guy who has managed to produce a huge body of work (around 30 or so albums) while remaining so obscure that most folks who have heard of him recently must be intimidated by the sheer volume of it all. His music, which tends towards a sparse and primitive and intensely personal form of detuned blues-rock, is not always the easiest listen as well, so for the barely or uninitiated this tribute may in fact be a way to get an idea of what the man's music is about and why he is such a cult hero to some. There are 21 tracks here, and the artists range from the well known (Low, Thurston Moore, Bright Eyes, Retsin, ex Pavement drummer Gary Young, Amy Denio) to the obscure (most everyone else). Highlights include the stark "New Town" done by Retsin, the sound collage versions of "I Woke Up" and Road to "Corwood/Lost Keys" done by Psychatrone Rhonedakk and Monster Island, respectively and Low's creepy take on "Carnival Queen" which is tremendous, ending with one of the their rare cacophonous walls of sound. Amy Denio's 9 minute take on "Your Condition" is also pretty amazing. For the most part the rest is quite listenable, with the exception of Gary Youngs' annoying version of "Take it Easy". I never liked any of his solo stuff either. Given that only the most diehard Jandek fans will even be familiar with all of these songs, this stands well on it's own as a good listen, which is about the most one can hope for with a tribute record.
For more information you can visit the Summersteps web site at: http://www.geocities.com/summersteps/.
Contact via snail mail c/o Summersteps; PO Box 447; Moscow, PA 18444.
Kid Icarus has his own web site at: http://www.geocities.com/icarus_website/.
Reviewed by Brian Faulkner