Thursday, May 31, 2018

Album Review: Derek Smalls - Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)

Derek Smalls
Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)
** out of *****

" just a number. a word. And just a thing."

Ahh the wisdom of the Derek Smalls as he opens his first ever solo album, which he expertly waited until the perfect time to release, his 75th birthday. The would be haberdasher, if he wasn't a bass player, Smalls is the big bottom layer of the massively influential Spinal Tap.  

For those who have missed it, This Is Spinal Tap is the mockumentary about a fictional 80's band that was so spot on in 1984 that the soundtrack This Is Spinal Tap could easily be confused for an actual release at the time. While the decades of opulent big metal shows with Stonehenge set pieces has largely gone the way of the dodo, rock and roll never dies and apparently neither do rock parodies. 

Harry Shearer has fun playing dress up, stuffing aluminum foil wrapped cucumber in his trousers as Smalls and there are a few fun moments here but not enough over the hour run time. Granted that could be part of the joke as the excessive in and of itself. From the operatic title track, to the pointless classical interludes, to the overloaded guest stars (everyone from Paul Shaffer to Chad Smith to Steve Vai), to the long pompous tunes like the 6 minute "Faith No More" ode to a former manager are overwrought. If you follow the belief that Tap was a real group, than their bass player putting out Smalls Change would be even more laughable.  

"Memo To Willie" is the most realized and best track here as you can tell that Smalls, ugh, really feels this one. The rock production and contributions from Donald Fagen, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Larry Carlton & The Snarky Puppy Horns all ring with the wit and seriousness of original Tap; how can you not smile at the digitally altered "Willie don't lose that lumber" line during the most drawn out track to an aging rock stars dick since...well.. at least the last Mick Jagger lyric. 

The great guitar of Waddy Watchel adds power to "I Don't Get Old" which also humorously shouts out second rate cities like Baton Rouge, Albany and Norwich England which will likely see Smalls touring through soon. The begging to buy merchandise tune "Gimme Me Some (More) Money" is closer to the current truth than most here while "MRI" featuring Dweezil Zappa feels like a tribute to Zappa's dad who would no doubt have been involved if he was still around. The overwhelming, almost ten minute closer is more inline with Tenacious D adding a splash of "Jazz Odyssey" than the original Tap, but that excess is half the ongoing joke.     

"Hell Toupee" with a Tom Waits-sounding devil discussing receding hairlines, "Gummin' The Gash" which grossly (and fittingly) does what it says it does, and "She Puts The Bitch In Obituary" are all more chuckle worthy (if that) in theory than in practice, basically that's the summation of Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing), but anytime you get to revisit the world of This Is Spinal Tap! it is a good day.

I should have really just wrote "Still eating a shit sandwich" for this review huh?       

Well since I am here already, the rock star ethos in general is pretty much lacking these days just like Smalls erections, but until someone takes on hip hop's excess with as cutting and direct humor, Spinal Tap will always have a place at the table when it comes to dissecting how insanely fine the line is between stupid and clever is in the music world. Non-fans of the Tap can skip this, fans will smirk after hearing it once and probably not go back to it, laughing more in theory than execution. 
Support the artist, buy the album, watch the movie, and peep some video below:   

1 comment:

  1. The next album includes completely different themes for increasing the interest in this creativity. It shows up literally in every hit.