The history of popular music is littered with strange obscurities, but few come quite so strange - and none so willfully obscure - as Jandek. Since 1978, a man operating under that pseudonym has been recording and releasing albums that are singular in both their dark mood and their nearly complete rejection of traditional ideas about songcraft. It's likely that if you were left alone for a while with an out-of-tune acoustic guitar, the knowledge of (perhaps) a chord or two, and a broken heart, you'd produce something fairly Jandek-like - a dark, primitive minimalist blues-howl that, though hardly lovely, would be in its own way musical. As one fan asserts early in the documentary Jandek on Corwood, "the man isn't talentless."

You could produce something Jandek-like, yes. But what you likely wouldn't do is what Jandek has done: Through the Corwood Industries record label, he has released 37 similarly melancholic albums in 26 years. During that time, the man behind Jandek has managed to almost completely hide himself from public view. He may or may not be a man named Sterling Smith (who signs Corwood Industries' checks), who may or may not live in the Houston area (where Corwood keeps a P.O. box), and may or may not look like the gentleman pictured on the covers of various Jandek albums with titles like Shadow of Leaves, Blue Corpse, and Telegraph Melts. (Seth Tisue's "A Guide to Jandek" is an excellent place to start exploring the myth in detail.) Everything about Jandek is pretty much a mystery -- and from such mysteries, cult figures are made.

Continue reading: Jandek on Corwood Review