Tim Heidecker is one half of the creative mind behind Tim & Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job, a show that has been making me laugh and feel uncomfortable for a few years now. Heidecker and show partner Eric Wareheim are two of the most creative people on television currently, but their creativity is definitely an acquired taste. The silly segments, quick and cheap video editing, and at times gross-out humor are staples of the show and can easily turn off a normal television viewer. It’s hard to describe the show itself to anyone who hasn’t seen it. Now Heidecker has teamed with Tim & Eric composer Davin Wood to assemble Heidecker & Wood— somewhat of a vanity music project that was born from an evening of messing around in the studio while making songs for the show. They decided they had a good thing going, so they recorded a full-length album, Starting From Nowhere, with Heidecker taking lead vocal duties and Wood writing all the music.
As I am listening over and over again to the album, I find myself in a similar place as with Tim & Eric; I don’t know how the hell to describe the album to a new listener. Let’s start with the music itself. The album was built around the song “Weatherman”, a Gordon Lightfoot-esque tune with 70’s soft rock bass and organ, heavily reverbed vocals, and smooth jazz guitar. This was the first song Heidecker & Wood recorded. As a result, the whole album has a 70’s soft rock feel. Heidecker & Wood credit singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne and Seals and Crofts, as well as The Eagles, Steely Dan, and Billy Joel, as inspirations for the music. All these influences definitely show, and I would add Crosby, Stills, Nash, Neil Young, and Simon & Garfunkel to that list as well. The music is a dead ringer for these bands. Wood does a fantastic job of harnessing the sounds of the mid-to-late 70’s soft rock genre. The guitars have the right amount of chorus effect. The Rhodes organ is like a slow rain underneath the music. The songs are structured for just the right amount of nostalgia and heartfelt moods that Heidecker’s melodies call for. There are even some great Kenny G saxophone lines thrown in for effect.
Then there are Heidecker’s lyrics. As with his show, I never quite know if I’m part of the joke or not. I also don’t know if this is a good thing, either. Heidecker & Wood are very obviously spoofing these ’70s artists in these songs. Heidecker has written some great lyrics, and he delivers them with such honesty that I wonder if it’s a novelty record or something Heidecker really wanted to do. It was probably his intention in the first place. Heidecker is one of the comedians (I hate to mention Andy Kaufman as a reference, but…) where you never quite know where they lie on the joke they are making. That’s one of the things I love about him. On this record, however, he has some very obvious spoofs, such as “Right to the Minute” – eerily similar to “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles– “Desert Island”, which features the chorus “There are no roads on the desert island/And there’s no tears for the city man/I climb the trees on the desert island/You’ll find me sitting in my castle made of sand”, and “Song for My Father”, which offers goldies such as: “He works in a big big town, and he’s bossin’ everybody around…Every once in a while I seem him when I go downtown to cut my hair.”
With other titles like “Grandest Canyon”, “Cross-Country Skiing”, and “Life on the Road”, Heidecker & Wood’s homage to Bob Seeger’s “Turn the Page”, it’s safe to assume that really all of the songs have a silly element to them in the lyrics—it IS Heidecker, after all. However, most of the tracks fall flat and aren’t so much funny as kind of a bad tribute band act. Part of me thinks the reason it is hard to describe the album is that I am fairly underwhelmed by most of it. Heidecker’s humor is good in short spurts (like the way his show is set up), but on a full-length album, it gets a bit tiresome. I greatly appreciate how well crafted the songs are in their tribute, but I don’t feel that the album knows what it wants to be. Silly and kitschy? Smart and clever? All of the above? It just seems that there is a lot going on. Perhaps I don’t understand it all, and I’m sure some will call that out, and that’s fine. But after multiple close listens, I just wasn’t feeling it.
Maybe that’s part of it. Perhaps Heidecker & Wood are creating an album that is meant to be somewhat obtuse and open. Perhaps it’s part of the joke. I don’t know, but I do know that, like after watching an episode of Tim & Eric, I just feel sort of confused.