Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Has Been" by William Shatner

I love William Shatner. Seriously, just fucking love him!

He's one of those people who gets dissed for reasons that aren't even fair. He's called a bad actor, when he certainly isn't. The nicely subtle actor Judgment At Nuremberg and The Intruder decided to the right way to play the character of James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise was with a certain bold, even hammy, Shakespearean aplomb. Now, this worked better when the scripts were better... in some of the later TV series episodes and some of the movies, this comes off as too much when the lines are overwritten and overplayed.

Somewhere in the '70s, I suspect, a combination of expectation and frustration led him to taking a lot of mediocre roles and not giving them the correct tone, as well, but really, how many people spend that much time criticizing his '70s movies?

Anyway, his first album, The Transformed Man, is not very good. But not really for the reasons most people think... although this is largely based on ignorance more than anything else. The album juxtaposes a dramatic reading from a literary work with a reading of the lyrics to a popular song. Most people have only heard the popular songs ripped out of context, making it merely a silly mess, rather than a pretentious bit of self-important wankery. Mind you, Shatner has gamely played along with the jokes, understanding that making too big a deal of how they were misused would make him seem like an ass, and a humorless one at that.

Somehow, the path of that has led to his new album, Has Been, with producer/co-writer Ben Folds. Any journey that leads to an album of this kind of genuine brilliance has to be ok.

This is an album that ranges from the silly to the sublime, from the peaceful to the enraged, all very honestly and entertaingly. The thing that one can't help see as the underlying theme is a profound sadness, though. From "It Hasn't Happened Yet" to the Nick Hornby co-written "That's Me Trying" and most especially the heartbreaking "What Have You Done?"

Not to say it doesn't have happiness, "You'll Have Time", a celebration of your eventual death, a hard rockin' cover of "Common People", "Real" written and co-performed by Brad Paisley, about being a movie hero, "I Can't Get Behind That" with Henry Rollins, and a title song so fun I won't spoil a bit of it.

This album is truly wonderful and beautiful. If you don't give it a spin, well, maybe you just can't get over how much small and talentless you are when compared to Bill.

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