This week’s music column is on Jack Springs, a 25-year-old high-functioning mentally retarded metal musician who sings about how he’s been mistreated in life. I didn’t know Jack was mentally retarded when I met him; he offered the information unsolicited, just like he freely shared his stories about having his head shoved into the toilet in school, or getting his ass kicked by bullies after being coerced into smoking marijuana.
The more I talked with Jack, the more I appreciated the raw honesty in his songs. Just like the sketchy handwriting in a junior high love note render feelings on the notebook page more real, the jagged delivery and lateral combination of lyrics in Jack’s songs tilt at the true turmoil that he lives with each day as a developmentally disabled man in a judgmental world.
Here’s some of the songs discussed in the article. There’s talk already amongst local musicians about forming a backing band so he can play live:
2. “The Jack Tracks.” A unique selection among Jack’s songs in that he addresses portions of it to himself. Near the end, he dedicates it to James, “a role model.” I had assumed he’s referring to James Hetfield, but it’s actually his father James, who’s passed away. Click here to listen.
3. “Violated Nights.” The incredible transformation of Jack the avant-beat songwriter with an out-of-tune electric guitar into Jack the hardcore larynx shredder with a score to settle. Chills. Click here to listen.
4. “Violated Days.” The CD-R that I received lists this song as “All of My Rights Were Broken to Pieces and Now I Am Going to Take All My Rights Back From You and Then Your Heart Will Stop Beating,” which, as you’ll hear, are the song’s complete lyrics. Jack’s since informed me that the song is called “Violated Days.” Either way, it’s amazing. Click here to listen.
Incidentally, to prepare for the interview, Jack brought me a list of his influences, written on a napkin. He tells me Metallica’s too commercial now that they get played on the radio all the time. (He also credits Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” as the thematic inspiration for writing songs about his rights.) You’ll see a band at the top of the list, Torn Back, which is Jack’s brother’s band, and Intangled, another local metal band who are friends with Jack—proof that the metal community can provide support to outcasts when no one else will.
While researching my Bohemian article on the independent music industry phenomenon of including free mp3 download coupons inside of vinyl LPs, I had the pleasure of talking to a number of labels whose records I’ve listened to and loved for half my life. Vinyl comes and goes pretty quickly these days, and there’s a lot of records that everyone owned at one point but somehow sold, lost, or loaned out for good. So it was exciting to find out during my interview that Merge Records will soon be introducing a “Merge Classic Reissues” series, revisiting out-of-print or previously-unavailable-on-vinyl titles and repressing them on LP. Matador did this with the first three Pavement records recently, and it’s fucking awesome that Merge is starting it too.
The first three titles to be reissued: A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell by Spoon, and The Charm of the Highway Strip by Magnetic Fields, all elegantly pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Here’s hoping they press 69 Love Songs and Red Devil Dawn, which have criminally never been on vinyl, and No Pocky For Kitty, which is just a damn great record, in the near future.
Also, Jon Collins over at Dropcards was telling me about all the various projects they’ve worked on, including a Hannah Montana card for Disney and a huge promotion for Vitamin Water. I asked him what the weirdest project they’ve done, and he told me about a Southern baptist preacher who ordered an mp3 of his sermon on a bunch of Dropcards so he could hand them out to his congregation. Crazy.
Collins also used to work at an independent record distributor in Philadelphia, and I think it’s pretty cool that a guy who now does business with Kelly Clarkson, Red Bull and SnoCap has a record collection that looks like this.