Album Review: Caleb Landry Jones – Gadzooks Vol. 1

Be excited. Caleb Landry Jones, Hollywood actor forging out a unique path through the big world with his McCauley Culkin drug freak period looks and ever so odd, but in a thrilling way, persona, has already recorded one of the most brilliant, all-encompassing weird psychedelic skewed pop albums in the form of the double opus of “The Mother Stone” only last year, and has now returned with this. I must admit this has probably been, for me, one of the most hotly anticipated albums for many years. Finally I have found an artist worthy of plaudits. An artist who is weird and wild and delightfully obtuse. 

Caleb has an odd voice that is difficult to pin down. Part early Bowie, part Edward Ka-Spel and unusually English sounding for an American. He lends these strange tones to building a stranger world that falls somewhere between the munchkins’ yellow brick road and the oompa-loompa’s confectionery landscape, all twisted death and mysterious disappearances wrapped up in glorious crinkly cellophane, that brings to mind “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. There is no introduction, no prelude. From the moment play is pressed or the needle is dropped you are immersed in a dream that is at once unsettling and silly, beautiful and terrifying. If you are a fan of the skewed pop of the Cardiacs, or the gleefully obtuse elements of Syd Barrett then you’re going to love this. If you love a big old musical fantasy but prefer them with more elements of horror than is acceptable, then welcome to the strange oddball world of Caleb Landry Jones. 

Straight into the fairground ride with the drum led “Never Wet” and here is where I already have a problem describing this melange of variety music hall and psychedelia, except to say it would fit very well on a Flaming Lips side project, if it also contained vocals from TV Smith of The Adverts. “Yesterday Will Come” is the straightest thing I’ve heard by him, and even that has it’s perplexing moments, but in general it has a melodic Harry Nilsson sensibility, with delightful strings and underwater piano, like something from The Beatles’ “White Album”. There is such inventiveness musically within the confines of one tune, and so much colour fills the palette that it’s easy to become confused, but if you allow this technicolour wave to carry you along it is so gloriously joyous. “The Loon” has such splendid moments of  weirdness, like later MGMT, and this is followed with no break by “Bogie”, and you’d be forgiven for not noticing it’s a different song. I found this about the previous album. It all seems to be one big wonderful ship of sound that transports you away into his world. Songs ebb and flow like tides in the same sea, inviting you to listen and listen again, and each time you discover new worlds and new sounds, some of them Nilsson-like, at other times The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song” springs to mind, and here come the Blue Meanies with the walrus holding court in prisms of sound. If The Beatles had continued their psychedelic explorations into sound they would no doubt have arrived somewhere similar to this. “California” is one of those wonderful pieces of music that seems to have movements within it, like ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, albeit one suffering from a kind of sickness, a malaise which worsens on “For A Short Time”, despite its decaying beauty, and sympathetic strings, and becomes magnified on the very short “A Slice Of Dream”, sounding like the very best of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band period, before segueing into the incredibly long “This Won’t Come Back”, which ends the album in a glorious mess, starting as it does as upbeat as he gets, like a Davy Jones song and dance routine (with Syd Barrett!), before sliding inexorably via Olivia Tremor Control into a beautiful mess of sound to feed your head. He has been described as cluttered and unfocused and I really don’t see what’s wrong with that at all. 

The good ship Landry Jones has set sail once again and I advise you to get on board. 

Gadzooks Vol. 1 is out now on Sacred Bones Records. Get your physical, digital or streaming copy here.

Follow Caleb Landry Jones on Instagram

Review by Andrew Wood

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