Whitmer Thomas - Songs from The Golden One Music Album Reviews

The comedian and musician’s breakthrough HBO special is full of songs about familial trauma that work just as well in an album format.

At 18 years old, baby-faced skate punk Whitmer Thomas decided to chase a dream, moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Shortly after, tragedy struck: Thomas’ mother passed away due to complications from alcoholism. In her final moments, she dubbed her youngest son “the golden one,” which, Thomas notes in his debut HBO special of the same name, “was awkward, because my brother was standing right next to me.”

The Golden One finds the now-30-year-old comedian returning to his hometown of Gulf Shores, Alabama to reckon with the unresolved familial trauma surrounding his mother’s death. Thomas filmed the special at the Flora-Bama Lounge, a beachside bar where his mother and her twin sister served as the house band under the name SynTwister, and he draws parallels between their artistic ambitions. Executive produced by Bo Burnham and co-directed by Thomas’ frequent collaborator Clay Tatum, The Golden One is one of the most unexpectedly moving comedy specials in recent memory and introduces Thomas, who has self-identified as a “pre-cum Jim Carrey,” as a bonafide star.

Songs From the Golden One is a compilation of expanded versions of the songs Thomas performs in the one-hour show. Though the album is perhaps best experienced after watching the special for the sake of context, it also works as a collection of great standalone songs. It’s worth pointing out that Thomas was a musician before he was a comedian; When he was a kid his mother helped him learn his favorite Green Day songs and he later performed in a variety of emo and hardcore bands in Alabama. His imitation of Blink-182’s melodramatic angst is so skillful that he ended up playing in a one-night-only cover band with Mark Hoppus. Setting jokes to song ends painfully more often than not, but Thomas’ songwriting talent carries him through.

Both Thomas’ comedy and music frequently go to dark places very quickly. The 10 songs on Songs From the Golden One cast him as a therapist’s pet project: he’s a codependent enabler laden with sexual performance anxiety and an abundance of trauma. But Thomas is self-aware, which saves his work from becoming self-pitying. “My identity is ‘my mother died’/Anything to distract from being straight and white,” he declares on opener “Hurts to Be Alive.” Though Thomas has a perfectly lovely natural singing voice, he tends to shift it down to the glowering, moody depths of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis or John Maus as a means of detachment. “Assuming the character of a rock’n’roll guy helps me get through it without having a meltdown,” he recently told AV Club with an uncomfortable chuckle.

Perhaps Thomas’ greatest skill as a comic and musician is his ability to let the tragic and comedic coexist. The lyrics of “Partied to Death,” a song about the effect of his late mother’s addiction on his identity, are painfully blunt: “Mommy drank herself to death/I know she tried her very best/Now I can’t party because my mommy partied to death.” And yet, thanks to a bunch of MIDI effects and some AutoTune, the song becomes a morbid singalong.

On “Dumb in Love,” which manages to evoke both “Strawberry Fields Forever”-era Beatles and landfill indie dance-punk, Thomas yearns for the blissful ignorance of a life unconcerned with the world at large. “Do I have to call my congressman?/I don’t even fucking know them…2016 didn’t affect me at all,” he sings with a snotty whine, sounding like a Peanuts character on MDMA. While the approach is obviously satirical—in The Golden One, Thomas performs this track after reminiscing about the often narrow-minded simplicity of Southern living—his delivery is earnest. “Hopes and Dreams,” a synthy surf-rock song about his father’s commitment to getting his act together and re-entering his sons’ lives, attests to the power of rehabilitation; It ends with the line “I hope my father knows he raised a little bitch,” just in case anyone was getting misty-eyed.

The record’s understated highlight is the organ-driven “The Golden One,” a meditation on the comedian’s life. What Thomas sees is imperfect: a floundering, sentimental comedian with a broken car and an obsession with The Dark Knight. And yet, he manages to find something resembling acceptance in the cards he’s been dealt: “I wipe away the steam and look at me/I’m just no fun/My mother’s son.” Songs From the Golden One concludes with “He’s Hot,” a cover of SynTwister’s would-be hit about a staggeringly sexy stud. Thomas has said that he recently found the band’s original tapes and plans to remaster and release them as a means of giving his mom her long-overdue moment in the spotlight. With this moving tribute, Thomas hits home the heart of Songs From the Golden One: it’s a labor of love and reflection.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Whitmer Thomas - Songs from The Golden One Music Album Reviews Whitmer Thomas - Songs from The Golden One Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on April 23, 2020 Rating: 5


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