This is a quick post on the musical, subway-themed gem that is Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror by Jeff Lewis. As this is the spot for all things subway or underground railway themed, it seems an appropriate song to write about.
In case you’re not aware of the song, it was recorded about in the mid-noughties by Brooklyn Anti-Folk musician Jeff Lewis. Anti-folk, in case you haven’t heard of that either, is a singer-songwriter type of music that undermines the earnestness of the folk genre with a ready wit. Lewis has been performing from the late 90s and is one of the ‘formost practioners’ of the art. He is a bit of a radical and you won’t see Cheeky Bingo or STP corporate sponsorship on his shirt, he’s more likely to ask a member of the audience if they have a spare couch to sleep on that night.
The song starts with Jeffrey setting off to re-master his album at Major Matt’s. This is not the action figure but a NYC musician and record producer going by the same name His studio, Olive Juice Music, is in the Lower East Side, so presumably the song takes place somewhere between Bedford Avenue on the BMT Canarsie Line and Union Square station where he would change onto the Lexington Avenue Line.
Anyway, that is pretty much the end of the subway technicalities mentioned in the song, although the Williamsburg/Brooklyn hipster milieu is amusingly described: ‘crowded five to an apartment’ and ‘ten thousand white twenty-somethings crowded on’ the L-train. While on the train he thinks he sees Will Oldham, a very successful Indie musician, sitting near him. This sets of a long, rambling and very funny (subway) train of thought
The highpoint of the song has to be Jeff’s thoughts about attempts to make a a living as a creative person and whether Will Oldham, the indie superstar, is subject to the same insecurities and doubts as the less successful hipsters. Jeff wonders if Oldham is plagued by the feeling that his work is nowhere near as good as Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but then supposes that all artists must suffer this feeling – Dylan probably wondered if he wasn’t as good as Allen Ginsberg or Albert Camus, and the famous French existentialist no doubt wondered if he would ever measure up to the titanic talents of John Milton or Montaigne or whoever. Insecurity about one’s place is universal, no doubt… and all that from a quick ride on the subway.