Isolated in his East Village apartment, anti-folk figurehead and underground megastar Jeffrey Lewis has been experimenting with live streaming on his Facebook page for a couple of weeks now. I saw a couple of test runs of him singing and playing this song into his webcam before he finally streamed a full version of it on March 24th. I loved it and I chatted pleasantly with him a little about the lyrics in the comments.
He has now released the song officially on digital distribution and streaming platforms.
First things first, since he’s isolated in his apartment the recording is pretty lo-fi compared to his more recent releases like last year’s seminal album, Bad Wiring, this writer’s favourite album of 2019. This is a production style that has always suited Lewis and with modern technology, it even sounds thicker, warmer and cleaner than a lot of his older lo-fi recordings such as The East River or Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song. His trademark strumming on his battered old acoustic guitar is as strong but simple as always.
Lyrically, the song deals with the boredom of isolation as well as the repetitiveness of important ways of combating the virus, like social distancing and washing your hands. As the song goes on though, Lewis gets angrier and the lyrics start talking about the way the American government has handled the pandemic. He refers to Donald Trump as “that orange clown who runs DC” and refers to his supporters as “his Ku Klux Kranks”.
Finally, in the last verse, he talks about the positives that will hopefully come in the aftermath of the pandemic. He talks about how “maybe a wide alliance will respect more science” and ‘we’ll have a full-on call for healthcare for all”. My favourite line is “It’s happened once or twice that when there’s times of crisis, giant good things come from change”. On Facebook, he commented that “the NHS arising after WW2 is part of what inspired me to have such thoughts…”. Hopefully, we can follow the good advice in the first couple of verses and look forward to building the better world he envisions in the final verse. Keep it chill.
Keep it Chill in the East Vill is available to stream or buy from all the usual places. Spotify, YouTube,
Written by Tom Ray
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