I have to admit I was a little baffled by the teaming of Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard for this project. As I said when news of the partnership broke, the only common trait I saw between the two was that each had a unique voice. I mean, this is one of the kings of alt-country working alongside one of the kings of slightly fey teen pop. But then I focused on their words.
It turns out this is one of those head-slapping “eureka” moments. Of course Farrar and Gibbard are working together. Of course it makes sense. The other thing these guys have in common with each other is what they have in common with Jack Kerouac: their rich use of imagery to convey a story. What we have here is the Alt-Country King who wrote “The news travels slower than a ten-second buzz” and the Indie Pop King who wrote “You may tire of me as our December sun is setting” interpreting the words of the Beat King who wrote “The church is blowing a sad windblown ‘Kathleen’ on the bells in the skid row slums.” Can you dig it?
One Fast Move or I’m Gone is a collection of 12 songs, the lyrics for which Farrar says are about 90% drawn from Kerouac’s own words. Whatever is in that other 10% is what takes this set from a pretty soundtrack for poetry reading to finely crafted songwriting. They convey a spirit and identity that is as much a reflection of Farrar and Gibbard as Kerouac, which is quite a feat considering the literary giant that Kerouac’s legend has become in the decades since his death.
Musically the album pulls more from what you might expect from Farrar’s background than from Gibbard’s and that’s probably because Farrar is credited with the co-writing of most of the album (with Kerouac), but each singer’s distinct style comes through and somehow feels entirely right. Despite these unique styles, there’s a cohesion and consistency to the album and perhaps that’s due to the source of the lyrics. Who knows? It works. It works surprisingly well.
Reviewing this album reminded me how badly I want to see this film and how much I loved Kerouac in my early 20s. It’s been several years since I’ve revisited one of his novels. It’s clearly time.
Stream (clips): Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move Or I’m Gone