Jeffrey Lewis in Paris

The first noticeable thing about watching support band, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, in the small downstairs room of a venue on the outskirts of Paris,was just how respectful the audience was. There was none of this chattering business you experience during warm-up acts in London or Sydney. The crowd was completely attentive throughout. There was plenty to pay attention to as well, as the Americans played a set that sounded frighteningly reminiscent of Digital Ash In a Digital Urn-era Bright Eyes. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done as well as this.
New York-based singer/songwriter Jeffrey Lewis chatted with fans as he sold copies of his albums and comic books from the merch stall (and made me blush like a schoolgirl by telling me he liked my T-shirt) before taking to the stage with his band, The Junkyard (which included brother Jack on bass). The 90-minute set was a mixture of old and new, as Artland and Posters rocked the shit out of the room, Heavy Heart and Bugs and Flowers were sweet and acoustic and The Upside Down Cross(written by Jack) was a woozy psych jam. As is the way with Jeff Lewis shows, he employed a projector to give a lecture about the history of Communism (it’s way more fun than it sounds). This was episode five, and was about Korea. Similarly to when I’ve seen him before, I learnt more about Communism in those five minutes than in my entire school life.There were other slide-shows too, including Jack’s tale of a horse that was sent to the electric chair, and the show ended with the story of a creeping brain that took over the world. Don’t worry, it all made perfect sense at the time. The old songs sounded great, but the highlight of the night was one lifted from new album ‘Em Are I (which, while being as well-produced a record as he has put out, still retains the lo-fi, anti-folk charm of his previous offerings). Broken Broken Broken Heartwas such a shimmeringly catchy combination of country-pop and doo wop that the crowd were bopping along within a few bars. Were English their first language, they would have been singing along too. I was.It only takes a couple of spins of any of his songs to discover that Jeffrey Lewis is, unquestionably, one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. His songs are often breathlessly wordy and packed full of countless truths. Tonight’s show also proved that, not only can he pen evocative lines, but he knows exactly how to put on a live show. The gig had pensive moments, laugh-out-loud humour and sweat-drenched punk magnificence. He might not sell millions of records, but Jeffery Lewis is an absolute genius and should be cherished by anyone who cares about honest, intelligent music.

Review by Bobby Townsend