John Terlesky, it seems, is always on a downer. But it’s a provisional downer: or rather, he’s living in a kind of medicated post-bummer suspension – whether prescription or self-prescribed – that’s numbed and fuzzy. It doesn’t admit to the extremes of manic depression, but just…sits there, watching television, staring at the way the TV’s glow reflects off white-washed walls, an odd bit of navel gazing to pass the day…
I’m not interested in building a psychological profile of Terlesky. He seems like a nice person, he’s insightful in interviews, and all you seriously need to do to come to grips with the Brother’s temperament is clock his lyrics. “Medication” is archetypal, leaping from widescreen scrolling through culture, religion, education and politics in the verses, to the personalized chant in the chorus: “That’s why I have to take my medication.” Earlier in the song, Terlesky growls, “I got some problems, but I’m working ‘em out, in my own way,” which is pretty much a précis of why Brother JT makes the records he does these days.
On Third Ear Candy, Terlesky broaches electronics like never before: some of the tracks swim by on perky drum machines and samples from old orchestral or pop sides, and his wild electric guitar is replaced with bubbling waves of synth squirm. If these changes have next to no effect on Terlesky’s worldview, as an audio artifact Third Ear Candy is relatively chirpy at times, even funny. The hit that could never be, “I Am the Blob,” rides by as though Beck never happened, with genuine loser sentiment attached: “I am the blob, and I’ve come to rob you of your problems, so give me a job.”
Music critic and Deep Water editor Kevin Moist once referred to Terlesky’s aesthetic as that of “drooling as a constructive activity.” I don’t think anyone’s come remotely as close to summing up everything that’s so great and unique about the guy’s take on “one living room vs. consensus reality.” And Terlesky was doing it all, perfectly, while Ariel Pink was still gobbling R. Stevie Moore. So how’s about cutting him some slack? After all, Terlesky’s wise beyond your years