From The Desk Of Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg: Andy Kaufman’s “Plays Carnegie Hall”

Shearwater’s Jet Plane And Oxbow is an album that looks backward—to the recording technologies and sounds of the early ’80s—in order to interrogate the present and to contemplate the future. Shearwater’s moody, thoughtful style, built around Jonathan Meiburg’s dramatic, beautiful voice, turned toward rock with 2012’s Animal Joy, which now sounds like a stopover in the flight path toward Jet Plane. Meiburg used period-specific instruments; his guitar playing alludes to Adrian Belew’s work with David Bowie and Robert Fripp’s with Peter Gabriel; he integrates the stark sounds of Joy Division and early New Order. But the goal wasn’t nostalgia. Jet Plane doesn’t sound retro, nor does it sound like an homage. The allusions are there to create a sonic parallel to our time. Meiburg will be guest editing all week. Read our new Shearwater feature.


Meiburg: Much of modern American comedy seems to flow from this surreal performance (or from Richard Pryor’s 1979 film Live In Concert), but it’s amazing to me how many people don’t know about it now (ask your dad; he’ll remember—maybe). Both Andy Kaufman and Pryor drew laughs from their unflinching devotion to their characters, rather than jokes—characters that included versions of “Andy Kaufman” and “Richard Pryor”

Pryor could cycle through different personas at dizzying speed, each with a staggering depth and pathos, but Kaufman’s trick was to never break character at all, no matter how absurd, and even in the darker moments of this grand celebration of pretty much all his best ideas, he still radiates a goofy delight, like he can’t believe he’s getting away with it. I’d tell you more about the show, but if you know it, you probably know it by heart, and if you’re here with innocent eyes, I don’t want to ruin a second. We have a great show for you tonight, ladies and gentlemen.