Getting Lucky

It's been a bad year for Lucky Jeremy, but bad years make great albums

Some days, you wake up thinking that the world stopped while you were sleeping and now you're the only one left. That feeling tends to hit you on late weekday mornings in St. Paul, when the air doesn't move, and the streets are empty, and you're sure that if someone coughed in Cleveland, you'd hear it. Lucky Jeremy calls this the Absolute End of Everything Everywhere, and for hungover people across the country, the end is never more present than when the day begins.

Slumped over on his couch at 11:00 a.m., his blue eyes still half-closed, Lucky Jeremy (no last name needed, he says) sits alone in his Lowertown apartment, the only sound in the room a low murmur from the radio. "St. Paul's kind of dead right now," admits the scrappy singer. "Anyone who was any fun isn't here anymore."

He doesn't say their names, but he doesn't have to: Jeremy's longtime friend and bandmate, thong-sporting pop sensation Sean Tillmann of Har Mar Superstar and Sean Na Na, moved to London at the beginning of the summer. Around the same time, another friend, beer-guzzling Exercise frontman Preston Olson, headed for L.A. "2003 has been a weird year," Jeremy says. "Everything went wrong. Sean and Preston left St. Paul. A year ago I was living with my girlfriend here, and now that's gone. Then my dog started hating me. And then my dog died."

He smiles as if there's a punch line coming. This is, after all, a man whose stage name boasts of his good fortune. The whole thing is funny in a British sitcom kind of way: First you laugh and then you feel bad for laughing.

Thing is, no one feels sorry for Jeremy, least of all Jeremy himself. He's ambitious and quick-witted with an endurance that helps him polish off a full bottle of tequila every Fourth of July. He gets by with his survival instincts: "Something inside you thinks you can win, you versus Nothing," he sings on his new album Call It What You Want, But This City Is Mine (Heart of a Champion). Once, he fell asleep in the bushes having lost his house keys, his clothes, and his sobriety, and still managed to wake up in his own bed. (The clothes showed up a few days later, folded neatly on the neighbor's front step.) He doesn't need your sympathy or your friendship: This is a guy who will tell you straight up that he hates your band--and your friend's band, and your mom's band, for that matter.

On This City Is Mine, which he recorded with his band the New Minneapolis (a joke about St. Paul), he's like a heckler, jumping onto the stage, kicking the rock stars down into the crowd and blasting them with their own microphone. "Hey, tell your dead band--play me some dead songs!" Jeremy sings on "Your Schtick Is Inspiring (Asshole)," the first of two tracks with "asshole" in the title. The second one tells the entire Brooklyn music scene that he hopes the bars will collapse on them. The rest of the songs aren't quite so harsh. Sometimes, they merely suggest that somebody else should tell some dude to fuck off. By the time he sings, "You put your head down and your middle finger up," on "Tom Petty," you wonder if that finger is pointed at you.

But there's no point in plotting your comeback line. On the best parts of This City Is Mine, Jeremy does it for you. That's what makes his voice believable: In his fierce, Frank Black yelp, he's the first to admit he has a bad attitude--and sometimes, the first to prove himself wrong. "I'll bet my life on my mistakes," he says on the classic-rock sendup "Broke Fence," but he's already lost his money. So he just makes more of them, wandering through strange neighborhoods with girls he doesn't know, dropping his shirt where he knows he won't find it, playing Pixies-style songs that make him feel a little better, then feeling like hell on the endless drive back: "I was gonna come home, but the car kept going/Everything was in slow motion."

That line, from the appropriately titled "Nihilism Country Tune," finds its echo outside Jeremy's apartment as a few cars ease their way into his neighborhood, drawing him away from his couch. He walks over to the window and pokes his head through, staring down at the street below, wondering if he'll see his twin brother or someone else he knows. But no one is out there, and even though his friends moved away, he looks a little relieved to have Lowertown to himself a little longer. "I like having a hometown where you can be anonymous," he says. "I like being where people will leave me alone when I want to be left alone." It's Lucky Jeremy versus Nothing again. He's got nothing to lose.

 
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