Sunday, June 18, 2006

John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (2005) – Sufjan Stevens

Like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Stevens’ portrait of the serial killer who dressed up as a clown, tortured/sodomized/murdered 33 boys/young men, and buried most of them under his floorboards, effectuates a slow psychological rape with lingering aftereffects that procure retroactive consent. As with all great art, “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” elicits a profound visceral reaction—in this case, disgust and horror, yet with a perverse fascination. In stepping into the mind of a psychopath, Stevens dares to explore the details of a topic so inherently repulsive that it stuns the listener captive. Over a stark arrangement of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and a modicum of piano, his (and background vocalist Shara Worden’s) gentle whimpers become those of Gacy’s victims. Unfortunately, the final stanza’s attempt to metaphorically justify the song—drawing a parallel between Gacy and Stevens—derogates from its overall effect, is unnecessary, and is in fact a lyrical blunder he’ll regret one day, if not already. That notwithstanding, the power of this song is its ability to find a strange beauty in such heinous subject matter, illustrating why Stevens is regarded as one of the most gifted songwriters of our time.

  • Listen to "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Casimir Pulaski Day" (2005) – Sufjan Stevens
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