John Lurie's wonderful world of art and music
I'm not sure I've mentioned John Lurie's music here all that often - beyond the timed-for-April Fool's mention of his great hoax, The Legendary Marvin Pontiac. I love that record. Still do. Not just for the great folly/faux-legend behind it - it's got some great music on it. But before I learned of that record I was hooked on the first album by Lounge Lizards. Man, that record twisted me up. I loved it so. Love it so. Lurie's band was making music I had dreamed about - here was the sound I was searching for. Well, that's how it felt.
And there he was in movies too. Great movies. Interesting movies. Stranger Than Paradise and Down By Law, Smoke and Blue In The Face, from there I'd fill in the gaps, start finding him in other films, start noticing that in the Jim Jarmusch films he was often the soundtrack composer, or at least a contributor. That he'd done other film soundtrack work too.
I bought the Stranger Than Paradise and The Resurrection of Albert Ayler album. A favourite to this day. I found other music by him too - Queen of All Ears by the Lounge Lizards, soundtracks to Mystery Train and Down By Law.
Lurie's film work and music work - so often intertwined - followed me in my part-time jobs through music stores, book shops and the video store.
And then there was the painting. First spied on album covers.
A friend loaned me Fishing With John - that got me hooked right back into Lurie's world. And work. If you haven't seen Fishing With John you should - it's very funny, very strange. Really wonderful.
I've recently picked up the soundtrack. And I did that - and I mention all of this - because there's a brand new album out by The John Lurie National Orchestra. Now this "National Orchestra" is in fact a trio, Lurie on saxophones and two drummers. They make the kind of f**king-with-jazz music that I like best. It's a circus, it's a carnival, it's so full of wide-eyed wonder and windswept beauty. Lurie knows how to channel whimsy into intriguing, beguiling passages - such lovely melodies and then some sharp stops. The percussion tinkers around beneath and you can get lost in the grooves. So cool. His music is so often so cool. And The Invention of Animals, the new album is very cool. And often very beautiful. I put it on and play it over and over, this doesn't happen all that often for me. I usually have to move on, find something else to listen to, working through the stack, trying to keep up. But Invention demands you hit play again, it sucks you into its world. The best kind of music does that.
But this isn't - technically - new. You see John Lurie hasn't made any brand new music in a long time. He's not able to.
Lurie's been ill for many years now, a form of Lyme disease I believe.
So The Invention of Animals is new in the sense that it's previously unheard, but it's music from the archive. There are snippets of unused film music, of previously uncollected film music, live tracks, bits and pieces. It's amazing how it hangs together as an album - if you didn't know you could assume it was brand new. If you've never heard John Lurie's music this is a fine place to start.
I wrote a review of the album recently and later the night I'd posted it I heard from John Lurie. What a rush. He liked the review - which was kind of him to say. And unusual. I don't often hear that, people usually don't thank you for the positive reviews. And nor are they expected to.
The reason I'm mentioning this is because Lurie wrote back to me to ask me to share the album review far and wide in the hope that people get to find out about the album. He told me he gets sad sometimes thinking about music since he can no longer make it. He's celebrating his art and his need to create through painting now only. He doesn't act. He doesn't sing, he doesn't play.
I knew all of this. But hearing it from the man himself was profoundly moving.
I promised him I'd do my best to spread the word, to share what I could about his world, his work. And in particular this wonderful new collection of music. So that's why you're reading this.
And then I dug up the African Swim and Manny & Lo album, a reminder there's still so much there for me to dig into. For any of us, all of us, to get lost in.
Lurie's been one of my heroes for the best part of 20 years. I wish him all the best and every happiness. And The Invention of Animals is the best new album, the best new music I've heard in such a long time. A very special album. Do check it out. This music needs ears. It deserves an audience.
Here's my review of the album.
Are you a fan of John Lurie's work? What's your favourite album or film?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts