You’ll feel better when you hear it.
You’ll feel better when you hear it.
It’s here. The album we’ve all been waiting for. Wait, let me rephrase that. The album I’ve been waiting for. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have frequented a party where I’ve been able to get at the stereo, then you’ll know all about the wondrous nightmare that is William Shatner’s The Transformed Man. If you don’t know anything about that amazing album, come round to mine one night and I’ll enlighten you. Be warned though, ’tis not an album for those of a nervous disposition; or Beatles fans.
Well he’s done it again. 35 years later, and thanks to the help of Ben Folds (give the man a medal) and a group of his celebrity friends, Shatner’s released another album! Woo and indeed hoo! Thing is, this one’s a bit different. Has Been is a serious album that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a perfect vehicle for Shatner; if you’ve ever seen his performance of Elton John’s Rocketman (1978 Science Fiction awards – go Googling!) then you’ll love this. But if you still loathe all things Shatner; then give it a chance anyway.
Apart from a few tracks, Shatner’s written the majority of the lyrics himself; with Ben Folds moulding and arranging the music around them and he really opens up, revealing himself to be a warm, likeable person with a wonderful, self deprecating sense of humour. The man simply can’t bypass an opportunity to take the mickey out of himself. The album’s title, for starters, is an ironic wink if ever there was one.
It begins with a version of Common People by Pulp that will, if you love that song as much as I, scar your soul. Shatner handles the lyrics in the same, over-theatrical monologue style that made The Transformed Man so earnest, but here he’s talking over what sounds like a dodgy ringtone version of the tune. It’s rather pleasant and childish, but just when you’re waiting for him to start shouting the chorus (which is something I was really looking forward to) Joe Bloody Jackson jumps in with a shitty punk rock middle eight and ruins the whole thing. Shatner may have tarnished Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds for eternity on The Transformed Man, but here he’s not the villain. Joe Jackson – you deserve a slap! After that nightmarish middle section it somehow redeems itself a little by adding a choir and pushing the whole song way beyond the boundaries of taste and decency. You’ll either laugh or cry, but most probably do both.
Elsewhere, things are a lot better. It Hasn’t Happened Yet is the song that really sets the tone. Dramatic and serious, but without ever falling into the type of bloated, pompous arrangements that marred The Transformed Man, it’s a delight. You’ll Have Time turns our hero into the Gospel Preacher from Hell and I absolutely adore it. Imagine having Wiliam Shatner yelling “You’re Gonna Die!” at you for five minutes. You’ll feel better when you hear it.
It’s worth forking out your money for Trying alone. Co-written with Nick Hornby, Shatner tells us a semi-autobiographical story of a man trying to heal a relationship with his daughter. It’s emotional, heartfelt, honest and the tune Ben Folds has crafted around it is simply gorgeous. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year. When Aimee Mann pops into the mix near the end, your heart will break.
All’s I can say about What Have You Done is that it’s scary, in a good way. Together is an affectionate little haiku of sorts that Shatner wrote for his wife and Lemon Jelly have come along and crafted a tune that’s so light and fluffy it should be the soundtrack to every happy Summer memory that you have.
Familiar Love is William Shatner in lounge singer mode. A slow, jazzy number that is as playful in tone as it is in lyric. Unexpected noises from within indeed! Ideal Woman is hilarious; not least for it’s bizarre tango style beat; but the title track itself is a Spaghetti Western joke of a song that is funny at first, but is probably the most throwaway song on the album. Much better is I Can’t Get Behind That, which has Shatner backed by the manic Henry Rollins and sees them ranting and raving about, well, just about everything. “I can’t get behind so called singers that can’t carry a tune, get paid for talking, how easy is that? (pause for a beat) Well maybe I can get behind that”. Drum roll please for Mr Shatner!
The album rounds off with a wonderful little song written by Brad Paisley (who sounds like Cletus from the Simpson’s here). Basically it’s a song about Shatner trying to reclaim his own identity from his more famous guises it’s simple, direct and ‘real.’ You’ll love it. To put it simply, Has Been is the best thing that William Shatner has ever done. Yes, even better than Kingdom of the Spiders.
Words : Damian Leslie