P A J O
man-crush (n.) - An intense admiration a man has for another famous man rooted in seeing that man as a model for talent and personal carriage. It is referred to as a crush in that it directly mirrors that of a giddy schoolgirl, but any intimations of sexual attraction will be zealously refuted by the crusher, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that its ABSOLUTELY 100% NOT* a "gay" thing so shut up already, OK? Gahhhhh!
I have three big indie rock star mancrushes. Jeff Tweedy, where its like being all mooney over the captain of the football team, a no-brainer. You think he can do no wrong, and even his obvious gaffs are charming, but then everyone else feels that way as well. Its as ineffectual as being mad about the price of stamps. There is also Richard Youngs, Scottish guitar wizard who no one else has noticed, but the crush is near negligible since no one knows who you are talking about. I had one on the Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood, but it has been eclipsed by my wife's actual crush on him, so its moot in my house. That leaves me with David Pajo.
David Pajo has more pedigree than one indie rock guitar player should have. He was a founder of Slint, the most influential band no one has ever heard, lent a hand to no less a triumvirate as the Palace Brothers, Stereolab and Tortoise, but also produced a slew of material under his various monikers Aerial M, M, M is the Thirteenth letter and most notably, Papa M. The Papa M instrumental album Live from The Shark Cage is one of my all time favorites ever, and his succession of 6 tour diary EP's released by Drag City are beyond superb in their relaxed experimentation. Oh, and he was in Zwan, the band that, in my opinion, could've saved the world had they not gone supernova so early on.
P A J O, the first release to bear his name, came about from the humblest of origins. David got a new laptop and it had a very rudimentary sound recording program installed on it, so he picked up his guitar and a mic and made this sweet breathtaking little record on it. It opens, all digital lo-fi hissy, with a flanged synthetic hit hat behind the folky guitar and sing sing on "Oh No No" leading into "High Lonesome Moan" where he doubles back on himself, being a postmodern one-man Simon and Garfunkel. He's dabbled with a number f styles, ranging from Jerry Jeff Walker covers to star drone-fests over his informal career, but on this he settles into what I think he does best, soft, sweet acoustic songs with just enough production applied to push them past themselves. "Ten More Days" is a prime example, where the instrumentation is only acoustic guitar, bongos and the occasional keyboard haze, but its fuller than most pop records employing an armada of guitarists and whatnot.
The fractured blues shuffle of "War is Dead" and his whisper pushed through some really cheap delay is indicative of the effectiveness if the technique applied here. Hence the reason for my mancrush - David Pajo, while adept at using a big studio as an instrument, is not always reliant on it, and can , on means that even I have at hand, create some equally valid compelling art. "Baby Please Come Home" with its fuzz and cheesy drumbeat belie the recording circumstances, but its still a great little soaring song.
OK, I'll let the recording thing go. P A J O continues the neo-folk trajectory he has followed on his Papa M EP's and latter albums, combining a post-rock sense of disjointed space (that he helped invent in Slint and refine in Tortoise) and an innate sense of finding a good hook, like the super catchy "Icicles" or the traditional "Mary of the Wild Moor" that I believe he has tackled elsewhere, but its lonesome ghostly vibe here suits it perfectly. "Let Me Bleed," on top of making maybe the best use of sweeping chimes since the lamentable late Luther Vandross, builds intensity at an almost glacial pace until it becomes an epic over its 5 minutes in length. "Francie" which closes the album, is a tranquil dreamlike spoken word piece matched with music that orbits your head and a reverb not since experienced since the "Twin Peaks" theme. Its a beautiful close to a beautiful, intimate record. He has said that he doesn't plan to do another like this, but I just hope he pulls it off the shelf after doing his rock opera or whatever he has in mind, and does another.
*perhaps it is a little revealing that I neglected to include the "ABSOLUTELY 100% NOT" part when I penned this the over day - avc,me
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com