Mark Eitzel (American Music Club) Talks Jimi Goodwin’s Odludek

I can go on and on about songwriting and the coming end of our civilization (15 years from now). I have killed countless conversations with self...

I can go on and on about songwriting and the coming end of our civilization (15 years from now).  I have killed countless conversations with self important rants that I always win — especially after three or four Bush-and-sodas. I’m not bragging — in fact, they say admitting to a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Well, here I am without opinions. My eyes are as open as a chick following the lion it thinks is its mother. Honestly, world, I don’t know jack shit and of course that’s the beginning of all wisdom.

I listen to music late at night. I especially love BBC 6 Radio. The emphasis is always “Well, this is fun” and not “We are delivering to you the zeitgeist.” (College radio in L.A. sometimes feels so curated.)

Listening one night to Lauren Laverne’s show I heard a track called “Oh! Whiskey.” I had no idea who Jimi Goodwin was and emailed my editor at the Talkhouse (at 5:00 AM) to review it, just so I could blag a copy.  I liked the track, it was beautifully produced. And I could relate to it (“Don’t Give Me the Blues”!) and the singer had stumbling-forward momentum in his voice. He was losing it (I thought) in a way that I could recognize. I thought Mr. G. was the new Fionn Regan or something (goddammit): great voice, great lyrics and overall evocative of all the comforts of a bar. Yeah, I wanted more.

In my Old Man Borish Ranting I would always tell people that, for me, a song has to reflect my own life. It’s not the style of the music, it’s the big, generous sunrise attempt to get out of your own way and actually communicate something to others. It’s hard to do. I barely can. I mean, it’s not just telling the truth and making it rhyme, actually. It’s giving people a story and a song they can sing. It’s that “get you through the night” thing. It’s a cliché to say this, but it’s generous.

Goodwin seems like a warm person. The song “Oh! Whiskey” isn’t folk (despite the harmonica), it’s a man kicking against the bricks. Sometimes the classic troubadour isn’t such a bad thing to be. Sometimes those three chords and the high, pretty bridge are more than enough. Love this song. I mean, I don’t care if he never had a drink before and this is just a character — it worked, lightning struck and you can’t ask for more. (Although I’ll bet he knows what he’s singing about.)

There is a fantastic interview with Joni Mitchell somewhere on the web. One of the things she talks about is how songwriters are themselves actors. They are all playing characters. It’s dangerous talk — just because of the tradition of writing from life — and how could you be sincere if it’s all just an act. Well, it’s a hard balance. I once saw an amazing Kath Bloom show. It was so off-the-cuff but really it was artful as dust falling in sunlight. Hard to do that and rare. I used to believe in my character but god, it took a lot of booze and spinning ceilings to maintain that, and when I stopped it pissed off a lot of people.

I didn’t know that Jimi Goodwin is the singer for Doves. I saw them in the last century at the Town and Country club and they had a camera crew with a big crane swooping, and it was all so very important that I ended up at the bar. Maybe it wasn’t even Doves. Who knows. Since then I have never heard their music (although I will now). If there are any Doves fans who have read this far: Look, I take no pride in my ignorance.

Odludek is so very produced. Just overdub upon overdub. It’s almost too much, although mostly I think it’s beautiful. From the album’s press sheet I gather that each track is to represent a different musical style. Maybe it does, but I’m too ignorant to get all the references. And Goodwin has a musical vision that cuts through all those styles — so why do them?  “Didsbury Girl” is a beautiful track that starts with a solid soul groove, then morphs into something else. It’s seamless and genius and I love the track, but as it twists and writhes and moves, all you want is the beautiful guitar and the voice.

Same gives on “Live Like a River” — I would have let the song just be the song ’cause it’s great. Although, yes, the distorted keyboard hook makes it a hit — and I hope Mr. Goodwin has many of those — it’s just so dense with stuff.

Listening to “Keep My Soul in Song,” I suddenly get it — he really does love all these musical styles. He also loves fooling around with instruments. Weird — it starts as a jazz standard, then becomes Jimi Goodwin again. I think he is a great talent and I’m only slightly jealous. This album is the musical equivalent of a man I’m acquainted with in SF. He does ironwork, he makes his own pasta, his own wine (delicious) and once a year he goes out and hunts boar, slaughters the boar, and cooks it beautifully, all effortless, with a quiet smile.

To “Man V Dingo” I say no — not because of the cheesy pop elements into the big band elements into the ’70s Rock with Brass elements but because it sounds like a man trying to be cruel who is actually incapable of being cruel. It’s all noise and no signal. The song itself might be good — if I could just make it through. If Happy Mondays was what they were going for, well… it just comes off as hypoglycemic Billy Joel.

This is pop music writ large by a songwriter very sure of the malleability of the form. If music is a dog, then he’s a good owner — I like that the music sounds cared for. The first time I listened through I thought of Morrissey’s solo records and how they were missing this kind of warmth and generosity — and what a shame that is. Both men have the misery but Jimi Goodwin still manages to walk forward into a story written for someone else to read. Talkhouse


Talkhouse Contributing Writer Mark Eitzel used to be certain that the aliens would listen in on his dreams where he wrote amazing pop songs. Then they would record them and release them illegally the next day. He used to listen bitterly to the radio for his stolen songs. He has many tragic flaws. You can follow him on Twitter here.