The Lonesome Organist

Forms and Follies (Thrill Jockey)

Who wouldn't give his right arm to be ambidextrous?

Jeremy J. Jacobsen, that's who. Using all four of his limbs to make strange, worldly and beautiful racket, this multi-dexterous Chicago transplant can play drums, keyboard and guitar simultaneously -- while singing. He can play steel drum while tap dancing. And if you ever took the guy camping, Jacobsen could probably slice, dice and julienne fries -- all while blowing a tin whistle, saxophone or harmonica and telling a decent ghost story.

Combining turn-of-the-century vaudeville with an 8 1/2-era Fellini soundtrack, the Lonesome Organist resurrects America's bizarre and bygone days of a clatter-happy one-man band -- both live and in the studio. Less eccentric than Mr. Quintron, more varied than Bradford Reed and his Amazing Pencilina, Jacobsen presents his third full-length platter replete with toy piano, vintage vibraphone and marimba. An album of grab-bag styles, tempos and moods, Follies shifts indigestion-free from tropical-dance exorcism ("The Cold House Is a Harsh Mistress") to abbreviated, punk-rock-informed outbursts ("Who's to Say Your Soul's Not Carbon," "The Multiplier"). Doo-wop-inspired ditties find the former 5ive Style keyboardist (and sideman to Euphone, Red Red Meat and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), actually harmonizing with himself: "I know there's a thousand men/But there is only one of me/If I was a marching band/There's still only one of me" (from "One of Me"). When he dabbles briefly as a duo, Jacobsen enlists bassist Nick Macri from Bobby Conn to flesh out two nocturnal, glamless meditations called "The Moon Fugue" and "The Robot Fugue." Otherwise, it's all Lonesome on what spans as mostly an instrumental effort -- scored and arranged on paper before being laid down on a simple eight-track. Fast as a sketch -- but more lasting than a flickering zoetrope, a ballpark anthem, or a stroll through a flea-ridden circus.

 
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