At this point it almost goes without saying that Jandek?s surprise appearance at the 2004 Instal Festival was one of the most surprising and important musical events of the last five years. Even if you don?t like his music, it?s hard to deny that a legendary reclusive songwriter playing a completely unannounced public performance for the first time after a quarter century of secrecy is a significant event. In true Jandek fashion, the performance raised more questions than it answered and really only made the man?s story more complex and intriguing. For decades Jandek has operated in a world of his own making with any kind of change almost always appearing completely random to outsiders. An entire side of an LP devoted to free form noise, the font on the back of one LP in hilariously cheesy ?Oriental? font, a piano solo? All of these things seem to happen for no reason whatsoever and similarly, Jandek?s decision to play live appeared (and still appears) to be a completely random choice. With the release of ?Glasgow Sunday?, the recorded document of the Instal performance, one can?t help but wonder if this recording was worth the wait. One listen reveals that, if you have any interest in Jandek?s music at all, this is an uncompromising masterwork.
Jandek?s work since ?I Threw You Away? (the first ?new period? album) has been characterized with a more plaintive, less grief-stricken voice than we?re used to. It sounds as though Jandek no longer revels in misery but, rather, accepts it as part of life and is now free to explore the details of his life (?I stayed up and did the wash / what else could I do??, ?The goal of live is make a man feel like God?). The lyrics on ?Glasgow Sunday? and other more recent albums are still painfully lonely, but the delivery and tone is decidedly less morose though no less obsessive and unsettling. Jandek?s guitar playing has never sounded better either, playing in the same piercing, raucous tone as on ?A Kingdom He Likes? and ?When I Took That Train? and other recent albums. Jandek?s voice and guitar are at the forefront, backed by the flawless rhythm section of Richard Youngs (bass) and Alex Nielson (drums), and it?s these two men that set ?Glasgow Sunday? apart from other Jandek records.
While it?s common knowledge that many Jandek albums from the 80s and early 90s feature guest musicians such as ?John the Drummer? and the fabled ?Nancy?, never before has Jandek played with a proper band and it seems that Youngs and Nielson were perfect choices for the job. Stylistically, it sounds as though the two of them were created in Jandek?s image specifically for this purpose. Much to their credit, it?s amazing that they played so well given only a few hours of rehearsal. Nielson?s drumming is free and without stylistic constraints (that is, he doesn?t sound ?jazzy? or ?rock-y?) and Youngs? bass playing is almost disturbingly insistent, spending the bulk of many songs playing only one repeated note and rhythm over and over. These two talented men playing with Jandek make an absolutely beautiful noise and it is, in a word, flawless.
After the events that took place on October 17, 2004 in Glasgow, many Jandek fans reacted with concern, disappointment, and shock, the most common complaint being that ?the mystery is gone? and that Jandek had somehow ruined everything he has built by performing live. This is utter nonsense as ?Glasgow Sunday? only reveals that Jandek is a singular talent who can create music that?s all his own under any circumstances ? recluse or not. As has always been the case, the ?story of Jandek? is immaterial; it has always been about music and nothing else. Jandek sounds energized by playing with musicians who so accurately realize his vision and also by the audience in attendance, even reporting himself that ?It was the first time I felt truly alive?. ?Glasgow Sunday? contains some of Jandek?s finest work and will undoubtedly take its place as a historic document in the years to come. Over 40 albums into his career and already two more performances under his belt, Jandek continues to prove that the only thing we know about Jandek is that we know nothing about Jandek. ?Glasgow Sunday? is evidence only that after a quarter-century this fascinating and mysterious man is just getting started. 9/10 -- Nick Hennies (25 July, 2005)