Graven Image (album)

Graven Image is the 23rd album by Jandek, released in (1994) as Corwood Industries release #0761. It was the first Corwood CD, and was remastered and re-issued in 2004.


Graven Image was the first of two albums released by Jandek in 1994, and most significantly marked the first-ever CD issued by Corwood Industries. Equally as interesting was the music on the album, which continued the "second acoustic phase" begun with Twelfth Apostle. Still, something's different here. For one thing, there's more "blues" than we've heard in a while. Also, Twelfth Apostle followed fairly closely with the plucked style of earlier acoustic albums, but Graven Image introduced a slight variance for its ballads. Here the guitar is tuned to a slightly less dissonant tuning, and is strummed more freely, as a more "standard" folk singer might do. Not that this album will convert any Joan Baez fans - it's still very much in the unique tradition of Jandek recordings. But there's a feeling of opening here, and a return to the pastoral travelogues of "Point Judith."

In fact, the third song "Ghost Town by the Sea" is a direct sequel to the Six and Six track. "By the sea by the sea/in a Point Judith diary I/found many rocks all pretty colors...and oh the smell it is so clean/and all of this so constantly old, old, old." The picaresque descriptions are typical of the album, which begins with the line "I drive, I don’t know where I’m driving," and then gives the performer some places to go. "Helena" is about the town, and what he finds there. "Chillicothe" is a town in Ohio famous for having America's first Veteran's Mental Hospital. "Lake Lagoon" discusses some nasty locals ("Shirley ran with the big fat man/all over town with a nervous frown") before deciding that it doesn't matter, because once out on a boat "there isn't no time not even in June."

Travelling's not all that's going on here, though. There's that same regret about a lost relationship that has fueled so many Jandek albums, with many tracks between the "travelling" songs sounding like postcards sent out from the destinations to a lost love. In the midst of it all comes "Janky," one of the zaniest numbers from a career that includes "Paint My Teeth." A crazed song for harmonica and voice, including such lines as, "Butter me up some bread right now/don’t wanna be clanky but here comes Janky/Janky is clanky I’ll have you know." Poking fun at his alter ego? There's also some new instrumentation, with an accordion (!) instrumental called "The Real Number" present. Accordion (and harmonica) are overdubbed onto "Phillip Was Mentioned," for an interesting effect. There's also more blues here than on the previous album, with "Helena," "Be Going Down" and "Fishing Blues" (among others) returning a sharp blues sound to the oevre.

The album closes with two connected tracks, "Going Away My Darling" and "Going Away." The former is produced by twisting the pitch knob on the guitar line, creating a sort of creepy carnival sound (as was "Whiskers," also the second to last song, on Twelfth Apostle). The singer tells his love that he's going away to the country, where he can be himself. He also promises to send his address. But "Going Away" twists the words, and seems to be the singer pondering if his feelings for the lover are "going away?" That's a question that seems to be addressed with the subsequent album - similar in travel themes, cover presentation (it's a different view of the same alley) and overall sound.

Track listing

  1. Remain the Same – 1:36
  2. Helena – 2:13
  3. Ghost Town by the Sea – 3:03
  4. A Real Number – 2:19
  5. Be Going Down – 2:12
  6. Nothing You Lack – 2:12
  7. Chilocothe – 2:40
  8. For You and I – 2:55
  9. Janky – 2:34
  10. Lake Lagoon – 2:45
  11. Philip Was Mentioned – 3:08
  12. Closing – 2:28
  13. Fishing Blues – 2:52
  14. Going Away My Darling – 5:13
  15. Going Away – 2:22


“Jandek’s blues is one of an almost nightmarish intensity of horror and desperation...”

-- Josh Ronsen -- Monk Mink Pink Punk #3

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