Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - The Third Door, Edinburgh, Wed 26 Oct 2011 (4 stars)

Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - The Third Door, Edinburgh, Wed 26 Oct 2011

Near two-hour set pulls disparate parts into satisfying whole

For this, one of the first gigs at the refreshed and renamed Third Door venue (formerly Medina, and now boasting a beefier new sound system), big personalities and hearts on sleeves are very much the order of the day.

Opener Viking Moses is one Brendon Massei, whose bleedingly honest stream-of-consciousness howling certainly finds a common thread with the rest of the evening, but lacks the lightness of touch, either sonic or lyrical, of what follows.

Next is Jeffrey Lewis’ schoolmate Seth Faergolzia, lynchpin of the band Dufus but going solo tonight with a series of idiosyncratic derives that run the gamut from straight-up folk ballads to scat-rap hybrids delivered over a glitchy electronic backing track. It borders on parody more than once, but remains thoroughly entertaining, the warmth of Faergolzia’s personality pulling even the most sceptical listener along for the ride.

Lewis himself makes a brief appearance as glamorous assistant in Faergolzia’s set - pouring a glass of water into the latter’s mouth so he can keep playing guitar while simultaneously gargling in tune - before returning with the Junkyard (brother Jack Lewis, drummer Dave Beauchamp and Nan Turner of Schwervon! fame) for a set that pulls many disparate parts into a satisfying whole of almost two hours.

It’s a set that combines wry outsider anthems like ‘Cult Boyfriend’ and Eminem cover ‘Brain Damage’ with a riotous and relentlessly recurring version of Bob Seeger’s ‘2+2=?’, and Lewis’ signature comic-strip-illustrated song-stories. Tonight in that vein we’re treated to a ‘documentary’ about Marco Polo, a story about an alien containing an inspired pentangle/tentacle rhyme, and an amusingly literally illustrated cover of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Mojo Pin’ - originally conceived when Lewis was invited to play a Buckley tribute night and reasoned that ‘I can’t sing as well as Jeff Buckley, I can’t play guitar as well as Jeff Buckley, but there’s a chance I might just be able to draw better than Jeff Buckley.’

As well as the self-deprecation and the cracked Waits-in-waiting voice, there’s an astonishing imagination and a keen wit behind Lewis’ wordy narratives. Even when delivering an impassioned speech about the current Occupy Wall Street movement followed by a song in which he adopts the voice of God expressing his disappointment with humankind, he manages to come across as earnest without being trite. Charming pop melody, gut-wrenching lyric, squally guitar wig-out, meticulously hand-drawn picture, it’s all the product of a comic book mind - full of colourful, bold images and constantly skipping on to the next mini-epic.

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