Neil Hamburger “Still Dwelling” (Drag City, 2019)

Neil Hamburger is the anti-comic creation of Greg Turkington, a thoroughly despicable and creepy looking individual who you wouldn’t want to see talking to anyone you cared about. It’s a brilliant creation whose characteristics and persona are presumably why these songs were chosen for covers, along with the couple of originals thrown in for good measure, but ultimately, your enjoyment of this album rests heavily on how you feel about Hamburger’s shtick.

Because it is gruelling, truth told. Like sitting in The Misanthrope Arms, surrounded by misanthropes, while one of them gets up to do karaoke over and over again, all the while taking no joy from it at all, unless their joy comes from being joyless and sucking any hint of joyfulness out of the room. Which might be the point, I don’t know, but with a production and arrangements that initially sound lush and welcoming, it quickly becomes cloying and indistinguishable – and were it not for Jack Black and Mike Patton’s guest appearances on Jesus Christ Superstar’s ‘Everything’s Alright,’ there’d be no, or very little, dynamism and it is surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the highlight of this record, its guest vocalists helping to break the musty, sickly claustrophobia.

Lennon and McCartney both get marinated in bitter sputum. Paul Simon and John Barry also get the Hamburger treatment, and the aforementioned two originals are appropriately mean spirited and grubby, leaving this possibly the first album I have ever initially liked, but grew to like less with every listen, and given Hamburger’s oeuvre, he’d likely see that as a win. The more I listened to it, the more unformed words rattled around my head, just out of reach until the maxim “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” arrived fully formed, which in turn begat the question: why?

Do check out his stand up, though.

Pointless exercise in uneasy listening
5/10

Author: Scott Baxter

Sometime reviewer of albums. Full time eedjit.

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