Joe Jack Talcum: Home Recordings Vol. 2 1993-1999  LP   (HHBTM Records)

Joe Jack Talcum - Home Recordings Vol. 2 1993-1999 LP



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Bio: For most people the idea of an intimate evening with Joe Jack Talcum playing songs in their living room sounds terrifying given the reputation of his better-known band The Dead Milkmen, but the appearance in 2011 of Home Recordings: 1984-1990 revealed a sadder, more intimate side to a songwriter better known for his sense of humor.

Self-released on cassettes over the years, HHBTM is proud to give Joe Jack Talcum’s work the exposure it deserves. Vol.1 remains one of the best-selling records in the label’s illustrious history, and now comes the second volume, an unexpected tour-de-force from one of America’s great unheralded songwriters, pulled from an archive that makes you want to hear more, to wonder what else might be in there.

If Vol. 1 worked a kind of ‘Daniel Johnston-esqe’ vein, Home Recordings: 1993-1999 contains a cosmos of emotion—from funeral marches to raveups, irreverence to lament—sometimes even in the same song. A solo album in every sense of the word, it’s like eavesdropping on a soliloquy. The kind of thing that K records folks like Lois and Mirah used to do all the time—sentimental without being cloying, sincere without being twee—only Joe Jack was doing it simultaneously, and in some cases before.

And though it falls on the analog/4-track side of home recording as opposed to today’s digital/infinite-track version, with all the expected warmth and hiss you’d expect, Home Recordings: 1993-1999 shows an unusual amount of experimentation/avant-garde-isms for someone essentially working in confessional acoustic singer-songwriter territory. The whirring technological breakdown in the middle of ‘Call Me a Fool,’ an avalanche of machinery,mirrors the emotional breakdown in the rest of the song, and goes places that few of Talcum’s contemporaries ever did. Think less Lou Barlow, and more Tall Dwarfs.

‘Madonna’s Weep’ has a tweaked-out 3am surreality that recalls Robyn Hitchock’s I Often Dream of Trains. ‘Another Time’ is as intricate and broken as early Elliott Smith, until this synth break comes along that melts your soul, that makes your perception of everything outside your window change, that gives meaning to the swaying and sweating of the trees.

With these recent solo releases Joe Jack Talcum displays a depth and longing that his time in the Milkmen only hinted at, so even a bratty line like ‘The sun shines out of my asshole’ is immediately followed by the pathos of ‘and rain pours out of my eyes.’

It’s never going to be a hit. No one’s looking for this. It’s too subtle, too heartfelt, too understated. But everyone who hears it is going to fall in love, and isn’t that enough—after all there are better ways to measure success than stardom.

Based on the leap Home Recordings: 1993-1999 makes from Home Recordings: 1984-1990, we’re sitting on the edge of our seat wondering what Joe Jack Talcum’s 21st century has in store for us.