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SXSW showcase reviews

Reviewed by Michael Bertin, March 14, 2008, Music

Jeffrey Lewis & the Jitters

Club de Ville, Wednesday, March 12

Is it possible to both hate and love someone at the same time? That's the strange feeling one gets while watching Jeffrey Lewis & the Jitters. Lewis' latest, 12 Crass Songs, doubles as a double entendre in that he covers a dozen songs by anarchist punk band Crass. And his angry Ed's Redeeming Qualities reworking of the songs are as earnestly charming live as on disc. It's even totally forgivable that there's no way on God's green and blue earth that he's hardcore enough to have been "Banned From the Roxy." But then he squanders the goodwill he's engendered by backing a couple of those covers with the film "The Complete History of Communism, Part III," and by "film" think "Subterranean Homesick Blues" with illustrations instead of keywords on cue cards. Politically, it's a bit unsettling in its romanticism, and political philosophy aside, a literal reading of history makes for really bad rock & roll. It's not that you don't want him to wear an "ism" on his hipster tee; the least engaging part of the set was the least dogmatic ("Creeping Brain"). It's just that after coming back to Crass' "Big A, Little A," maybe Lewis' best ideology is someone else's.

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