Geek Smithology

July 10, 2005

Review – Has Been by William Shatner

Filed under: Sound by Nathan @ 1:57 pm

November 2004, Toronto; I was there to become a better person. Well, at least a better manager. Preflight, I caught some bug that left me sicker than a dog (whatever that means.) I staggered into the Hilton, likely scaring the lady at the counter, and proceeded up to my room to pass out for the better part of the next day and a half. When I awoke, I took my course and when all was said and done, I figured I should do something in Toronto.

I walked until I found some city block with elephantiasis of the mall. I wandered without purpose, soaked in the leering prurience of unbridled consumer consumption, when suddenly I thought to myself “didn’t Shatner put out another album?” My mission, should I choose to accept it, would be to procure a copy of said disc. Turns out I was standing beside an HMV, so the mission was kind of easy. I dodged the hoi polloi and, safe in my hotel room, I put the disc into my laptop and gave it a listen. Turns out Ben Folds stepped in to produce and co-write a lot of the material, so not only is it not horrible, it’s actually kind of brilliant. Love or hate the “music” of the erstwhile Captain Kirk, you have to concede the point of his originality.

The set opens with Joe Jackson assisting on a rocked-out and dichotomous cover of Pulp’s Common People – it’s the perfect opener but doesn’t set the tone for the album at all. It then runs the gamut from Shatner’s deeply emotional memoir on the night his wife died in What Have You Done to a campy, church choir assisted rumination on the nature of death (“Live life like you’re gonna die/because you’re gonna”) in You’ll Have Time.

Stand out tracks include the vitriolic stream-of-consciousness blur of I Can’t Get Behind That (I guarantee that if you haven’t read the liner notes, when this comes on you will say “Is that Henry-fucking-Rollins?” and you’ll do a Cheshire Cat when you realize that yes, yes it is Henry-fucking-Rollins), the poetic and trippy folksiness of Together, and the best track of the album, That’s Me Trying. Penned by Nick Hornby (yes, author of High Fidelity) with the chorus filled out by Ben Folds and Aimee Mann (I’ve loved Aimee Mann since Magnolia), Big Willy’s delivery makes you think he’s talking about his life (“I know I haven’t been the best of dads/I’ll hold my hand up there/The reson that I’m writing is I’d like for us to meet/Get a little daughter dad action going.”) In the end , it’s a lot of fun, and when the first pass ended, I started it over again; it’s been in the rotation ever since. In the words of the man himself…

What are you afraid of?
Failure?
So am I
Has been implies failure
Not so
Has been is history
Has been was
Has been might again

five star

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