No we aren't, Jim of Seattle, but if you keep this up, you certainly will be.
I had no idea what this was when it came. I knew it was from Green Monkey Records, of course, and I knew it had the highest recommendations of head monkey Tom Dyer and his henchman and my good friend Howie Wahlen, but you have to figure that a lot of that comes from being on the label. Then again, the fact that Dyer heard something in We Are All Famous he found worth releasing says one hell of a lot right there. Howie? I've learned I have to trust him or run the risk of missing music I do not want to miss. Still, this is not exactly what I expected.
From the cover alone, I knew the songs would be more on the fringe. No one puts together artwork worthy of a Monty Python or Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and then slips classic rock or Broadway or even modern classical in the jacket. Look closely and without thinking, try to guess what kind of music is on this album. You can't, right? Then again, maybe you're closer than you might think. Theatrical? Odd? Is it a rock opera? Is it a soap opera? Hell, it could be circus music judging by the cover and, not surprisingly, it is, if only for a short interlude.
What it is is either a rock opera pieced together very carefully and in the minutest detail, or it is 19 experiments in music or perhaps musical theater woven together with the skill of one who suffers from OCD. I am leaning toward the former because the more I hear this, the more I hear genius. It is a wild but controlled genius, an ear for sequencing so many pieces of music in just the right order. Granted, without the music, the sequencing would be wasted. I do believe Jim wasted not a drop.
From the carnival intro of Overture through the folk/psych and sixties farfisa rock of Everybody Now to the Oingo-Boingo-ish deviltry of Laboratory Rat, this album begs a complete listen. Give it one and you get equal parts fringe rock with classical interludes and the occasional cross between glee club and Hi-Los which practically sounds like recordings from a monastery. The small compositions, for they are worthy of that designation, fade in and out seamlessly, the distance between one and the next timed to perfection.
I'm going to tell you right now that while you may find favorite tracks on We Are All Famous, listening to them individually takes away from their true impact. Jim obviously worked extremely hard to make this album flow from beginning to end in such a way that each track sets the next one up in the best way possible. This is only a portion of the “genius” to which I earlier alluded.
So I sit here listening for what must be the 20th or 30th time, coffee cup at hand because I need caffeine to make my own words flow enough to just keep up. If you were sitting here with me, you'd be gulping coffee too. This is amazing stuff.
I wish I didn't have to say “you have to hear this to believe it”. It stops most people dead in their tracks. But I have to. This is way beyond what I expected.
Normally, I try to steer clear of personal messages in reviews, but Jim, my apologies for taking so long with this. It has taken me this long to even begin to understand the whole of We Are All Famous. And if, as you predict, The Martians Are Going to Eat Us, I hope they hold off for some time. I need more time. At least a thousands listens worth.
(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)