Jens Lekman

Oh You're So Silent Jens

(Secretly Canadian; 2005)

By Alan Baban | 13 January 2008

Jens Lekman wants you to come and play with him.

Wait, nonono that’s not right. Jens Lekman wants us to come and play with his metaphysical self. Like mutual heavy petting feigning intellectualism. And if you think that’s a bit heavy-handed then, trust me, Jens would be proud.

But I’m not sure Jens would sit there so smug when I tell him (on Saturday, 8:40pm , in my dreams) that Oh You’re So Silent Jens is going to be glozed with a 49% rating. Not because it’s terrible; it isn’t. Indeed, there’s some songs that are actually good, and it’s bereft of the type of sperm whale acrobatics and tightly woven thematic balderdash that renders other records unlistenable. The problem lies in the fact that it’s extremely accomplished, but ultimately boring; there's just no emotional or musical development. Melancholy, maudlin ambivalence not only casts an impressionistic cushion, but basks the whole affair with a halo that glisters dimly, at once high lighting the songwriting maturity on offer, but also circumscribing it with reams of incidental, cast off melodies and lyrics whose delivery belies the malnourished imagination at orbit.

But don’t take this as a pithy denouncement of a pathetic artist -- I’m almost certain that some people, and people I might come to respect, or already do for that matter, will fall head over heels with what they might think are this album’s "charms." That’s fine. I'm just not one of those people; there’s a point where love crosses over into the AWOL mire of loathsome ire, a cascade of self-deluded and, ultimately, self-lacerating formalities. It’s only furniture, Jens. It will not hurt you.

So, take prep notes on the rose parade, and watch out for the clowns crying in the alleyway. They’re rushing onto the main street like tributaries of turbulent thoughts, stilted by the placidity of the main line, anchored in the Lethe of love. So, we meet Veronica (when Jens picked up his "harmonica"), Julie (whom Jens is going to meet by the "vending machine" with a "wedding ring") and some random girl spied at the anti-war demonstration. It’s romantic with a capital R for people who think Keats is an acronym. Most alarming is the surety of the archaic crafts at hand here, spouting sweet nothings with not an ounce of self-doubt or self-analysis, as if the Jens inverted the lens onto himself and found a minor blemish worth erasing, rather than one to expose and explore. It’s a foolish perfection that dulls the sentiments with an insincere aftertaste.

On the other hand you might enjoy Jens Lekman. Jens would call it a comeback, but I think it’s more of an insult;

You might like Jens Lekman if the words "twee" and "fey" don’t scare you.

You might like Jens Lekman if you like deep-throated croakers whose dour voice is in turns boring and bloated, but most times just bleating ("Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaab," etc.).

You might like Jens Lekman if you have a lot of patience with subpar melodies. Everybody comes to like a desert island, even Tom Hanks.

You might like Jens Lekman because he "just wants someone to share" his "life with." He doesn’t want you to "go down on" your "knees." He just needs you to know that "that someone could be you." Robert Redford style.

You might like Jens Lekman if you locate the endearing qualities that have so far eluded me in these lyrics: "F word, f word, pardon my French / But it’s BS, BS."

On the other hand, you might not like Jens Lekman. You might think his music is a little insipid, a tone too innocuous. But you can’t deny that he can pull something out of the hat every once in a while. Nothing remotely exciting, or physiologically interesting, like a rabbit, but amenable all the same. The likes of "Wrong Hands" and "Sky Phenomenon" may appeal to those who haven’t heard the Magnetic Fields before, sporting genuinely likeable melodies, and song structures that grow in spurts. Young hearts surrounded, nay smothered, by geriatric lover’s tiffs.

The kids are alright, you know.