(As published in B-Side in 1994...)
Third-rate critics are always declaring third-rate albums by undiscovered "geniuses" to be the greatest albums they've ever heard. No one believes a third-rate critic, of course, so there's no harm done--no wasted money, no bitterness over having been had.
But when first-rate rock critics start praising albums by undiscovered "geniuses," and when those albums consist of two-and-a-half hours of unremixed demos, that's a different story. In fact, until the May 28, 1994, issue of Billboard, it hadn't happened before, at least not on the scale it's happening with Bulk, the new two-CD Medium Cool/Twin-Tone album by Jack Logan.
"Marking the full-blown arrival of an exceptional commiserator," wrote Billboard's Timothy White, "Bulk will stand with the most substantial rock 'n' roll of this decade."
"Well, you know, I've said before that I thought he was going out on a limb with a saw," responds Logan, the "exceptional commiserator" to whom White was referring, when asked about the quote. "I mean, to say it that quick, before the album was even released--I mean, I don't know what got into him."
Logan laughs. The thirty-five-year-old motor repairman and resident of Winder, Georgia, is as overwhelmed by Bulk's positive press as anybody else. He and his loose collective of musical buddies never expected that any of the six hundred demos they recorded during stolen moments and lost weekends over the past fifteen years would be heard by the public, let alone by Timothy White and Rolling Stone's David Fricke, who after hearing the album said, "You can't help but be awed by it."
"At first, I didn't know whether to be grateful or to worry that I was going to have to live up to that," Logan admits. "But after thinking about it, I'm just going to be grateful that somebody in that position thinks that. I hope it'll inspire me to try to do even better."
Among Bulk's forty-two songs, listeners will encounter blues, folk, and rock 'n' roll. They'll also encounter mongrel genres too new for labels, and the least varnished sound since The Basement Tapes or the latest ROIR live cassette. According to Jack, neither he nor Peter Jesperson, the president of Medium Cool/Twin-Tone and one of Logan's biggest fans, ever seriously considered doing it any other way.
"People that are familiar with where I'm coming from, you know, I could see them listening to this and saying, 'This sounds like crap. You're just beating on boxes--why even bother? Why would you let something like this out?' But to me it's an accurate representation of what we've been doing the last fifteen years, and, you know, so be it."
By "we" Jack means his longtime, multi-instrumentalist buddy Kelly Keneipp and such members of Logan's bar-band fraternity as Eric Sales (bass), Aaron Phillips (drums), Dave Philips (guitar), and a lot of others, most of them members at one time or another with Logan in such acts as the Dashboard Saviors, the Snags, Lava Treatment, and Liquor Cabinet. No fewer than eighteen musicians and racket-makers show up on Bulk, which, according to the conditions of Logan's Medium Cool/Twin-Tone contract, is the first of four albums he'll eventually release.
Since they'll never have the advantage of making another record under the relaxed conditions of thinking they're recording in a vacuum, one can't help but wonder how Logan, Keneipp, and the rest will approach the task of making "official" albums.
"We sure don't want to put out some really slick, overproduced thing," Logan explains. "That'd probably just negate any good feelings we generate with this first thing. But at the same time, you know, if they want us to do something with a little bit more consistent sound quality, I can understand that too. If I try to put out an even junkier-sounding one than this with even more songs, people would just laugh at us. I think we'll just try to make a good record with good songs on it and record it where it's not so slick that it doesn't have any life in it, but then also not with a self-consciously low-fi approach either, you know? I think there's a medium that you can strike in between that."
A lot of Bulk's charm stems not only from the variety and quality of the songs, but also from the after-hours wooziness that seems to imbue the entire album with a spirit of its own. Again, Timothy White: "It's [Logan's] singing, with its fierce weariness and flute-like nasal waver, that imparts the harsh beauty of the haunted soul."
"Gee," Logan laughs. "Well, it's totally flattering. But, you know, I'm not going to sit around quoting that to my friends if they don't like the way I'm singing: 'Well, Timothy White says that I --,' you know? I'm not going to do that. These people that know me. They wouldn't put up with that."
And besides, according to Logan, a lot of the "fierce weariness" in his voice was really the beer talking since sobriety sometimes took a backseat during the making of Bulk.
"Sorry, Mom, but yes," Logan confesses, laughing again. "You know, we're not alcoholics. I drink about once a week. But it loosens you up a little bit, and I think some of my vocal performances were probably more interesting because I'd had a couple."
They were also probably more interesting because Logan was singing about some "interesting" stuff--the scab-faced loser in "Shit for Brains," the murder of a woman in "Chloroform," the thirteen-and-counting dead men in "Underneath Your Bed," the headless corpse in "Floating Cowboy," and the general dissolution of the narrators in "Fuck Everything," "New Used Car and a Plate of Bar-B-Que," and a bunch of others. Yet Jack Logan the professional motor repairman and possible next-big-rock-'n'-roll thing seems a lot happier than the human wreckage he writes about.
"If you think about it, how many records have you ever really liked that were just telling you how great things were?" he asks rhetorically. "I take my hat off to anybody who can make a really happy statement and make it interesting, because people are more likely to be to be cynical about it: 'O.K., so you're happy. What good does that do me?'"
Logan laughs again.
"You know, life is not just a bowl of cherries all the time. But it's not a total piece of shit either. I think some people end up trying to live their songs and, you know, end up destroying themselves. But I don't see that as my fate.
"I hope not anyway."