And They Say I've Got Talent

Tom Smith

Pretzel Productions, 2005

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


One of the hardest balancing acts to pull off is the fine line between humor and social commentary that is usually known as satire. There is a small but incandescent pantheon of truly brilliant satirists: Swift, Voltaire, Tom Lehrer, early Saturday Night Live, the films of Christopher Guest and (sometimes) Kevin Smith, Joe Bob Briggs, and HL Mencken come to mind immediately.

American folk singer Tom Smith has always threatened to break through into elite company like this, but for one reason or another his past efforts have fallen into the 'not quite' category. He's been good, but he's never been great. At least, not until now.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Because his latest CD, And They Say I've Got Talent, is a poisoned poniard in a jester's costume, alternating between biting and gut-wrenchingly funny. The World's Fastest Filker (who has been known, literally, to write a funny song on an audience-chosen topic while being timed with stopwatches) has gone beyond himself into something more. I'm not quite sure where he goes from here, but I bet it'll be fun.

ATSIGT is well produced, spare and simple; Smith doesn't go for obviously complex arrangements or musical stretches. He is a singer/songwriter, with the elegance common to the best examples of that breed. Where there are instrumental fillers, they're well chosen; I particularly like the marching band sounds on "Trans Poly U Fight Song" (referencing the truly brilliant Phil Foglio comic strip Girl Genius).

The gold is the songs. "And They Say I've Got Talent" is a biting, vicious, funny and sad look at the music industry's manufactured divas, specifically (quoting from the liner notes) "in particular the one whose name rhymes with Canessa Varlton." When Smith sings "I've got a whole bunch of press releases, smiles, and evening gowns / To hide the fact that my songs are Tori Amos hand-me-downs" it's winceworthy -- Smith is singing what a lot of us have thought and never said out loud. I know I've thought it.

"The Illuminati Polka" is split-your-side funny, a musical salute that manages to make conspiracy theory and paranoia cheery and danceable. "Dark Country" is chilling, "The Ballad Of Rupert" is both hilarious and oddly sad, and "Rich Fantasy Lives" should immediately be adopted as the official anthem of geeks, freaks, fen and misfits everywhere -- a group I proudly count myself as part of.

And They Say I've Got Talent would be easy to pigeonhole as fannish music, as just another folk or humor CD, but it would all be wrong. What it is is brilliant and worth checking out.

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Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pretzel Productions, and is used for informational purposes only.