May 21, 2008

THE BALLAD OF BILBO BAGGIES - Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head CD, Atco 2008

This here disc, released on the 20th I believe, will join the kind of Accidental Pantheon featuring records like Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space and Ethel Merman's disco platter. But I will say, this is ripe with far more jokes than a loungy Nimoy frolick. (Unfortunately, several of those jokes are the sad sort.) In terms of execution, this sits closer to Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue--which really means it sits close to the white & powdery. Many people of bloggy repute (though not this one!) contributed to the creation of this smug and murky goof, I'm sure with the idea that they were participating in one of "those" records, or totally ignorant and therefore as dumb as I suspected. Incidentally, some of these fools include the guitarist from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (okay, sure), one of the dudes from TV On the Radio (uh-huh), and...umm...David Bowie.
If you're wondering how this record ended up in the pile to be reviewed on Fuck You Counselor, you oughta look above the reviews to the header sometime. The new subtitle--take it as a revised Mission Statement--reads: "Unfit to be tied." Gunky, trashy, warped, absurd, artless, and downright un-fancy records are to be found in all strata of the music biz. The assertion that some bleached and Botox'd celeb doesn't have the same right to produce an embarrassing record as some dude in the basement of a record store is romantic nonsense.
I'll have no piece of that pie. Stupidity and self-indulgence are not class-specific. And, as a matter of fact, both of those embarrassing kinda records can suck in similar ways! Ms. Johansson's full-length debut is, if nothing else, a testament to that.
On the factual tip, this is 10 Tom Waits covers and one original. I'll allows that to swirl about in your head before you continue.
The production sinks Scarlett's voice somewhere in the 3rd-chair-oboe range, prolly cuz she couldna pluck a note from a knee-high bush.
There are bad synth wash-ups, unnecessary drumbs and an Aimee Mann outtake vibe that push this into absurdly Pro-Tools territory. I don't think her voice is as atrocious (assuming these weren't from multiple takes) as the arrangements; they're just amateur, which has a kinda charm at times. The versions of "Anywhere I Lay My Head," "I Wish I Was In New Orleans," and especially "Town With No Cheer" are heartbreakingly inept. Seriously. Like coming back to your hometown and discovering everyone you knew got into meth; too late to do something about it, so it just makes ya sad. Though, I found it quite shrewd that she picked all the songs about being drunk and/or sad. Oh wait; that's most of 'em anyhow!
So in the end, this shouldn't just be dismissed as some celebrity vanity record. That's as plain as day. This should be considered a humiliating slab for anyone to have produced. Except the irony of the whole affair will keep this afloat, just like all the schlocky claptards aforementioned. Who knows: maybe someday Ms. Johansson will stride to the mic at a sci-fi convention, arm-in-arm with Mr. Shatner, reveling in the glittery murk of that most American of dreams: the Cheap Laugh.


Geoffrey M. Golia said...


Tor Hershman said...

Livin' long and (intellectually) prospering.

Wha-ja think of this number?

Stay on groovin' safari,