2022 promises to be a banner year for Damien Jurado. Not only does the year mark the songwriter’s 50th birthday, but it also sees the summer release of his 18th studio album, the impressionistic and tuneful Reggae Film Star. And hang on, there’s more: on September 23rd, 2022 Sub Pop Records reissues Jurado’s debut full-length, 1997’s Waters Ave S. The work of a young artist driven by complex inner visions, the LP offers a fresh chance to examine how far Jurado has come in the 25 years since its release—but also demonstrates how much of his point of view and vivid scenecraft was firmly in place from the very start.
A veteran of the DIY punk and hardcore scenes, Jurado had begun taking steps into the world of lo-fi home recording. But with renowned indie rock producer Steve Fisk acting as producer, Waters Ave S introduced Jurado to the independent music world, presenting a set of 13 songs that encompass odes to remote desert outposts, late night conversations with Elvis, a purple anteater, and the great beyond. Though new to the studio, Jurado’s storytelling lens is well honed; these compositions are filled with characters wandering the psychic wilderness, flawed but nonetheless certain of themselves, or at least certain enough.
Those only familiar with Jurado’s ambient-tinged folk or AM gold psychedelia will find the album more punky than expected, replete with post-punk basslines, electric guitars, and a youthful tenor to Jurado’s voice. But what’s most striking about the record is how fully formed his world is, especially on songs like the lilting, drum looped “Angel of May,” the sci-fi “Space Age Mom,” and mournful simplicity of the title track. Jurado was just getting started, but the path he’d follow seems laid out by Waters Ave S. 25 years later, it’s clear that the creative spirit that fuels this idiosyncratic and exuberant record is one that still propels Jurado to this day.