simon joyner - "iffy"
simons first hodgepodge collection of songs from 1988-1992. true to life punk-folk-death-warble. originally released on sing, eunuchs! in cassette only format...now re-released on hissin wax in an edition of 300.
There's something remarkable about hearing an album that is over 10 years old by one of your favorite artists in a completely different context than the first time you heard it. The progression of Simon Joyner is amazing; his earliest recordings were extremely lo-fi affairs that were mostly just him pounding his acoustic guitar and screeching out heartfelt lyrics about anything and everything. It was so raw, you could still feel it bleeding. There are fewer documents that blur the lines between folk music and punk rock than Simon Joyner's "Iffy."
In 1995 (or maybe it was 1994) when I first heard this tape, I was floored. I had been trying to make music on a 4-track for a while and I could never get anything on tape that sounded like this. It's a delightful train wreck with his limbs and ghosts scattered amongst the wreckage in some weird, artistic way. I longed to be like Simon Joyner and here, 10 years later, I'm still looking up to him in awe.
"The Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love & Nausea at a South Omaha Burger King Oct. 12, 1992" is one of the longest song titles I've ever seen. It's also one of Joyner's best songs. For lack of a better word, he yearns. The vocals and words hurt the listener as much as they hurt Simon. As he moves at light speed through this seemingly silly song, you just smile. His sense of melody is apparent. Goddamn, I love this song.
It's hard to believe that Simon was writing material this amazing over 10 years ago. Most artists could only hope to be writing such quality songs 10 years into their career, let alone at the beginning. Joyner is as good as it gets when it comes to folk music; he has a powerful voice in an unrelenting genre. There is no one better at writing tales of love lost and expectations destroyed.
Omaha's Unread Records has done a great service to this recording and to Joyner's fans alike. Tapes wear out and the hiss begins getting in the way. Now this wonderful collection is permanently documented, as it should be, on vinyl. Simon's music harkens back to a day when there was only vinyl and every fan of his should hear his music in that format. It adds to the organic-ness of his songs and makes them that much warmer, that much better.
From the distorted guitar/drum stomping of "Match" through the soft strain of "Torpedoes & Laserbeams" and the absolution and charm of "Don't Fuck w/ Mr. Teenage Nebraska," this is the ultimate testament to the connection between folk music and punk rock. Simon Joyner has reached a status for me that few artists ever will. He's amazing in a very simple way. It's like admiring the beauty of nature, and how unreal it is that it's just there and alive. He's got that quality to him. There are many artists doing the same thing he is but, unfortunately for them, he's doing it much better. - Brad Rose
* * *
Bright Eyes may be all over Newsweek and such as the voice of Americana (and I'm not criticizing him for it, don't get me wrong), but there's another Omaha, Nebraska musician who has been plumbing the depths of his soul and writing about American pain in a even more ramshackle, visceral and uncontrolled way. Iffy, originally on cassette and re-issued by Unread Records on vinyl, collects the earliest of Simon Joyner's recordings, from 1988-1993. It's a wonderfully rough ride through childhood memories, midwestern landscapes, and the sheer pain of death and heartbreak. Iffy kicks off with the perfectly titled "The Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love and Nausea at a South Omaha Burger King Oct. 12, 1992" and proceeds from there through a gloriously ragged hodgepodge of homemade folk music cut through with manic punk energy. "Another American looking for the real America," Joyner screams about D. Boon at the album's end, and it could describe him as well - Joyner probes into his own life in such an incisive way that he couldn't help but be investigating his home town, and home country, at the same time. In that way it's very personal music that's about all of us, really, but not self-consciously so. Self-deprecating and quite funny, but also filled with humbly poetic passages and perfect descriptions of moments and feelings, Simon Joyner's music is complicated, and god bless him for that. - dave heaton