East River Pipe’s Nontrivial Things: Jeff Brouws

Stoutly refusing to record his passionate songs under anything less than his own terms (in his New Jersey home on a TASCAM MiniStudio), F.M. Cornog, under the name East River Pipe, has released seven albums since 1994 that can stand toe-to-toe with anything by your favorite indie rockers over the past 20 years. Although working full-time at the local Home Depot and raising a daughter with his wife may have curtailed Cornog’s recording time somewhat, the quality of the finished product remains unchanged. ERP’s latest, We Live In Rented Rooms (Merge), is further testimony to a man who refuses to play the rock-star game (form a band, tour, do photo shoots, etc.) and has come out the other side with a brilliant body of work—and with his soul intact. Cornog will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him.

Cornog: Back in 1999, I used to hang out at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Union, N.J. In those pre-Kindle, pre-iPad, pre-Nook days, this store was fully stocked with art and photography books that were a little off the beaten path, not just the “hits.” That’s where I came across a book called Highway: America’s Endless Dream and the photography of Jeff Brouws. What initially attracted me to Brouws’ work was what I can only describe as “beautiful decay.” His photographs reminded me of my father and me whizzing along in an old Chevy Impala, past the cheap, neon-lit landscapes of my youth. But that reaction was just a surface reading. On a deeper level, his photographs reminded me of the darker side of the American dream. Brouws’ photos asked questions. Were unbridled freedom, capitalism and the myth of the open road good things? Or were they just traps you could fall into? Were these iconic American ideas liberating us? Or were they merely leading us into a no man’s land?

Video after the jump.

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