Dale Jenkins Undesirable Element LP
Damn, 1985 keeps coming up in my reviewer rearview, and here’s yet another perspective on that mid-decade nadir. The first of three privately-issued LPs that Jenkins released in the ’80s, Undesirable Element is a true stew of the delicious, the tangy, and the questionable. JENKINS belongs to a lineage of oddball American originals that includes MICHEAL YONKERS, GEORGE BRIGMAN, KENNETH HIGNEY, and WICKED WITCH. Got Kinda Lost takes the LP’s original seven tracks and adds three more (the CD has a whopping nineteen cuts in total) to give you a well-rounded view of JENKINS’ eccentric muse. Recording everything himself, JENKINS utilized early drum machines and rack effects in interesting ways, although his basic style is still singer-songwriter at its essence. “Blind Faith” opens the album in snarling punk mode, echoing shut-in rockers like J.T. IV and JOHN BERENZY GROUP with its FX-drenched guitar leads and quietly panicked vocals. “Article Two (The Handgun Song)” is a subtly devastating examination of one of the USA’s biggest, stupidest, and most intractable problems, still so sadly relevant that the takes write themselves. Every lyric in this jaunty number is like a tweet aimed at your dumbest social media followers—”You pay your dues to the NRA / Armed with false statistics / They tell you what to say.” I can just see some red-hatted, Oakley-shaded numbskull getting worked up and trying to cancel Mr. JENKINS ex post facto. Some songs, like “Depression” and “Love And War,” dip dangerously into schmaltz, as if MICHEAL YONKERS nixed the righteous fuzz and Yippie indignation, but “Non-Surgical Lobotomy” rivals J.T. IV with its anti-social studio apartment rock. “Paranoid Song” and “Destitute” bring more of that bad acid/good times dichotomy like only a few damaged souls have been able to—think JIM SHEPARD or the aforementioned KENNETH HIGNEY. “Another Day” veers back towards the schmaltz but cuts it with some SKIP SPENCE let-it-all-hang-out vibes and ends things with a glimmer of hope. Who cares what year it came into being—Undesirable Element is an out-of-time gem ripe for rediscovery.