Jeffrey Lewis is my homeboy. The prolific anti-folk singer-songwriter has lived less than a mile from where I live on the Lower East Side since he was born in 1975. Difference is, I moved to Avenue B as an adult, while he's a native — his dad is a Brooklyn-born motorcycle mechanic who hung with local politicos and musicians.
As a hereditary hippie, Lewis has always dug songs that drift off in vaguely Buddhist notions of existential displacement and eternal recurrence. So several of the tracks that lead off his new album, A Turn in the Dream-Songs, are way dreamier than a hard-headed interloper like me would prefer. But the music picks up while remaining dreamy at track five, the idealistic yet realistic "Time Trades."
Lewis is often funny and sometimes fanciful — the lifetime bohemian as likable supernerd, neurotic and vulnerable in a rather universal way. The new album includes a touching description of eating alone after you've been dumped, a gangsta-folk bonus track about massacring mosquitoes, slapstick about failing at suicide, and a personal manifesto called "Cult Boyfriend."
Adding to Lewis' draw as a cult boyfriend is his status as a cult multitalent — in addition to publishing his own comic books, he illustrates his own CD packages and lectures on the graphic novel The Watchmen. But his songs come first, and in those songs the lyrics come first.
A Turn in the Dream-Songs' six-minute master track, "Krongu Green Slime," is a dystopian yet tongue-in-cheek reflection on consumerism, evolution, mortality and the tiny place of life itself in the cosmos. It's universal to the max, covering 10 zillion years and counting. On the Lower East Side, that's how we roll.