Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel: A Concept Album

As y’all will know by now, I have a great love of Guided By Voices and all of the various offshoots, side projects, collaborations and contributions connected with that group. I make it a point to collect what I can. I carry a print-out of an Excel spreadsheet with me when I know I’m going record shopping, for the express purpose of finding what I don’t yet have. Yes, I am a geek. I can live with that. 

This particular concept album organized by Chris Slusarenko is no exception to the rule for me, and as soon as I saw it yesterday I knew it for what it was (thanks to, I immediately snapped it up, sure it was coming home with me. And having played it, now, I can say that this is really quite a unique release. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Right on the front cover, a banner claims it to be a concept album, but as to what the concept actually is I’m still not quite certain. The liner notes from Richard Meltzer are about as helpful as trying to glean useful information from the liner notes Andrew Loog Oldham used to write for the old Stones records. In other words, not helpful at all.

The two GBV tracks rock like AC/DC, and that fills me with glee. Many of the other tracks here are also excellent, in their own little ways. Some of the trippier passages and animal noises I could have lived without, but the majority of the tracks are solid. The interludes from Goldcard are interesting, tying the whole together with very frail thread. One wonders if, as they claim in the booklet, this is what happens when you leave a bunch of indie college radio rock folks together to make their own Tommy. Frankly, it’s not too far off, that.

The album as a whole sounds like its searching for something, something out there on a horizon only these visionaries can see. We laymen just have to trust these folk to bring it all home in one piece and make at least parts of it comprehensible.

On the only sour note, I don’t know what the hell Stephen Malkmus was thinking when he released this track under his name. Maybe he thought it was funny, as in, “haha just ‘cos my name is here Pavement fans will buy it and then be shocked by the (secretly ironic, perhaps) joke I’m playing on them.” Well, if that’s indeed the case, the joke is on you, Mr. Malkmus. That shitty track was a colossal waste of your time and mine.

But overall, in terms of the potential for a listener to be pleasantly surprised, pleased and reassured by a record, this one offers all of those things and more. It reinstills faith that not everything needs to be a manufactured pop soundbite for Lite FM shite radio, and I can totally live with that.

Track Listing:
01 Prologue
02 Guided By Voices – Titus And Strident Wet Nurse (Creating Jeffrey)
03 Stephen Malkmus – Blue Rash Intact (Quarantined – Hallucinations Due To Severe Allergies)
04 Ann Magnuson And Dave Rick – Dr. Mom
05 The Outside Suite/Unseen World Awaits Future Assignment
06 Quasi – Which Side Are You On, Colonel?
07 Mary Timony – Doom In June… The Secret Order Of The Caterpillar
08 Howe Gelb – Hooker Instead
09 Minus 5 – The Great Divider (My Ruffled Sleeve)
10 Sentridoh – Morning’s After Me
11 Poster Children – Back In Uniform
12 The Retreat Within/Messages From Beneath The Surface/The Great Underwater Fire Battle
13 Grandaddy – L.F.O.
14 Black Heart Procession – One Hand Tore The Side
15 Macha – He Remembers His Burial At Sea
16 Weird War – I’ll Never Forget What’s His Name
17 Minders – Mandatory Rebirth/Prerequisite Afterlife
18 Guided By Voices – Reprise (Destroying Jeffrey)
19 Epilogue

*All tracks in italics denote the “incidental music” by Goldcard.

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