Album: William Shatner

Has Been, SHOUT! FACTORY
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The Independent Culture

There's a trend for young(ish) stylish stars such as Morrissey and Jarvis and Polly to lavish their street cred upon some older cultural icon such as Nancy or Sandie or Marianne. At least with William Shatner, the kitsch element is squarely upfront. Or so you'd think. But ironically, while those other collaborations mostly fail to persuade us of the deeper artistic merits of some 1960s kitsch popster, one's low expectations for Has Been are blind-sided by the appealing qualities of Shatner's work with Ben Folds, which is genuinely moving in its own way. It starts shakily, with a version of "Common People" done in the Captain's notorious "Lucy in the Sky" style; but thereafter, the pair settle into a series of enjoyable music-and-poetry pieces that recall the experiments of Charlie Mingus and Ken Nordine. Folds' settings range from cod-cowboy to cool jazz, gospel to R&B; and although Shatner's no Larkin or Eliot, his poetry does share a similarly world-weary mindset, leavened with a self-dep

There's a trend for young(ish) stylish stars such as Morrissey and Jarvis and Polly to lavish their street cred upon some older cultural icon such as Nancy or Sandie or Marianne. At least with William Shatner, the kitsch element is squarely upfront. Or so you'd think. But ironically, while those other collaborations mostly fail to persuade us of the deeper artistic merits of some 1960s kitsch popster, one's low expectations for Has Been are blind-sided by the appealing qualities of Shatner's work with Ben Folds, which is genuinely moving in its own way. It starts shakily, with a version of "Common People" done in the Captain's notorious "Lucy in the Sky" style; but thereafter, the pair settle into a series of enjoyable music-and-poetry pieces that recall the experiments of Charlie Mingus and Ken Nordine. Folds' settings range from cod-cowboy to cool jazz, gospel to R&B; and although Shatner's no Larkin or Eliot, his poetry does share a similarly world-weary mindset, leavened with a self-deprecating humour. In "It Hasn't Happened Yet", he's an old man lamenting the failures of his life; and in "Familiar Love", a tired roué thankful for the familiarity of true love. Best of all is his duet with Henry Rollins, ranting amusing grumpy-old-git complaints over Folds' explosive jazz bricolage. It's poetry, Jim, but not as we know it.

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