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 â€œdidnâ€™t Shatner put out another album?â€ 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, itâ€™s actually kind of brilliant. Love or hate the â€œmusicâ€ 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 Pulpâ€™s Common People â€“ itâ€™s the perfect opener but doesnâ€™t set the tone for the album at all. It then runs the gamut from Shatnerâ€™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 (â€œLive life like youâ€™re gonna die/because youâ€™re gonnaâ€) in Youâ€™ll Have Time.
Stand out tracks include the vitriolic stream-of-consciousness blur of I Canâ€™t Get Behind That (I guarantee that if you havenâ€™t read the liner notes, when this comes on you will say â€œIs that Henry-fucking-Rollins?â€ and youâ€™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, Thatâ€™s Me Trying. Penned by Nick Hornby (yes, author of High Fidelity) with the chorus filled out by Ben Folds and Aimee Mann (Iâ€™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 , itâ€™s a lot of fun, and when the first pass ended, I started it over again; itâ€™s been in the rotation ever since. In the words of the man himself…
What are you afraid of?
So am I
Has been implies failure
Has been is history
Has been was
Has been might again