|Jonas Alaska Confuses Me|
Sure, and you’re right, nobody said that folk music lyrics had to make any sense. Often surrealism is better than trying to articulate some political or social message anyway. Brings us to a new place, makes us question our sanity (always a good thing if you ask me), expands mind-possibilities. But does it matter if this weirdness is intentional? Dunno, man. Dunno. Question for the ages, I suppose. This Jonas Alaska cat and his self-titled debut album has me confused. Who is he? What is he? Was he sent to this planet simply to make a mockery of everything folk music junkies hold sacred? Well, no. I mean, I hope so, but probably not.
The instrumentation isn’t really anything to brag about, only occasionally reaching anything close to sublime. It sounds like early Byrds, a little bit of Dylan, a little Beatles during their Sgt Pepper phase. A basic mishmash of 60’s electric folk. Nothing new, doesn’t push the music forward. Possibly even looks at the past a little too longingly. Hey, I like the Byrds too, but they were doing their own thing, expanding folk-music boundaries by combining it with Rock and just generally getting all hippie on yer ass.
But back to the point at hand: I think Mr. Alaska is genuinely trying to communicate a serious message. Maybe he doesn’t have the kind of grasp on the English language that he thinks he does or maybe he’s just as bad at writing lyrics in his native Norwegian. Regarding the first possibility: maybe this kind of Americana hasn’t been recorded in Norwegian, but so what? Be the first! Not only could he communicate his message more clearly, but it would allow us American listeners a chance to get off our cultural high horse and just dig the sound of his voice, which is pretty damn gorgeous, by the way, and really the best part of the album. Anyway, just a few lines as examples, because, honestly, I’d feel bad if it seemed like I was making fun of the kid:
“I didn’t know him well / but I liked him / he was one of those guys / that everyone knew / either liked him or not.”
“I am Robert Ollinger and I am in a gang / don’t touch me one more time.”
Anyway, you get it. It goes on like this. But, you know what? It kinda works. I mean, the songs can get a little too self-serious and pretentious and the weird lyrics kind of help to take the edge off a bit. Anyway, whether intentional or not, dialing up the weird factor in a folk-rock record just can’t be a bad thing. Right? Right.
Pat King lives and writes in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit his brand new wierd blog, the Mugwump Corporation for more cool stuff!