Life is no damned good, you know. If you've been reading
this column for any length of time -- and both of you know
who you are -- you've seen a lengthy maudlin cataloging of
all wrong with the world and what little can be done so
I could go on at length about the utter screaming horror
which is the Disneyfied version of "The Hunchback of Notre
Dame". Apparently, Quasimodo wasn't a dark, bedeviled being
reviled by the populace, he was merely depressed and
misunderstood! Why, with a couple months of chiropracty and
orthodontic work, he could be "The Physically
Handicapped (But Whole) Individual of a Nice Paris Suburb".
Victor Hugo is spinning in his grave so violently that it is
disrupting the Earth's diurnal rotation.
It will, of course, make millions for Disneyco, who will
certainly go on to urinate all over other classics of great
literature. I can hardly wait to see Raskalnikov singing and
dancing with the old lady he's about to off. Something
perky, scored by Elton John or Billy Joel. Let's call it
"Minor Infraction and Punishment". While little kids are
clutching their grinning Raskalnikov handbags, Disney will
be producing their next bound-for-the-Oscars great:
"Ulysses", language simplified to fit pop-music rhyming
schemes and turned into the story of a young South-Cal boy
bummed out by his girlfriend's unfaithfulness after seeing
her chastely kiss the dude pouring their cappuccinos at the
Less evil things are afoot in the music world. Less
disturbing. Maybe the implications are more subtle. Maybe
I've got my head sufficiently in the sand to filter out all
knowledge of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Smashing
On today's roster of incomplete marvels would be Richard
Thompson's "You? Me? Us?", a double-CD collection of all-new
tunes. The shame is that this could've made a nice single
disk album. The greater shame is that most of the weak half
could be as good as the rest if Thompson would shuck the
Mitchell Froom/Tchad Blake production team who have served
to turn his last few albums glossy and slick, a shine as if
coated by too many layers of urethane.
And as natural to the touch. There are great songs lurking
under performances dulled, perhaps by too many takes,
perhaps by the airless space the recording embodies. The
last few years' circulation of concert bootlegs have served
to prove that Thompson has, if anything, honed his
performing skills to an intuitive excellence, and that his
songs, sounding tepid on legit releases, have grace and
beauty in themselves and in how Thompson performs them.
The producers of this record have attempted to appropriate
the reputation (justified, if not well-enough known) of
Thompson's solo concerts by pairing a disk of 'conventional'
rockinroll-type stuff with a disk of 'acoustic' recordings.
But too many takes, or too many retakes, or too many dubs,
and or perhaps simply the lack of an audience for Thompson
to play to, all conspire to make the acoustic side sound
enervated and lacking in spirit. Ironically, it's the
full-production side that ends up with the better hit count:
"Razor Dance", "Bank Vault in Heaven", "Hide It Away", and
"The Ghost of You Walks" all carry through somehow the
feeling that Thompson can imbue in his songs when he's able.
A couple songs on the acoustic side are fine, but overall it
has a better feel as background music.
If he does a score for a Disney cartoon, say, an
all-broadway-tune version of "On The Road", then we go after
him with pitchforks. Until then, let's hope he gets to make
the really good album we all know he has in him