“It fucking hurts to be alive, oh the disposable fragility of life”, is a great opening line to an album released amidst a global pandemic. And then what follows: “my identity is: my mother died”. Right, we’re really getting into it hard from the start. For those unfamiliar, it perhaps takes the edge off to know that Whitmer Thomas is a comedian.
‘Songs From The Golden One’, is the musical appendix from the LA comic’s debut HBO special The Golden One; a one-man show, combining stand-up, original music and a very personal at-home documentary. But is this a comedy album? It’s hard to say.
With titles like Eat You Out, Partied To Death, and lyrics like “I wanna fuck like I’m not registered to vote”, there is a very clear tongue-in-cheek aspect to this LP. But calling it a comedy album would do a discredit to a record that is packed full of wonderfully constructed pop songs, that achieve a deep and moving level of artistry.
Living in Alabama, losing your mother at an early age, watching your father abandon you and playing in a Gulf Coast-based emo band, to then move to LA and become a comedian, is an interesting journey and leaves you with a compelling voice. This LP is insightful, honest, original and personal but Thomas’ charismatic tone, either developed through his comedic journey or be it an innate comic prowess (you can “chicken or egg” that one yourself), packages the otherwise dark material in a way that doesn’t leave you weathered or ill from the stark confessional outpour.
The Codependent Enabler is brutal in its honesty and a stand out track on the album. The chorus line is as clever as it is harrowing: “I have a dream where I’m your hero / because I can only get it up if you are down”. This Bowie-esque darkwave song packs a punch musically, with a strong attention to detail in the production and a mighty last chorus that effortlessly fuses a playful tone of hand claps and glistening sounds with the troubling lyrical content: “As it turns out I was leeching off your codependence”.
Another stand out track is the lo-fi lively Dumb In Love; a love letter to the tantalising act of being irresponsible; a pop/punk ode to the freedom and bliss of ignorance. Although the tongue is firmly placed in the cheek here, there’s a depth of intelligence in the relatable material, as Thomas sings of the tiresome ego battle of being indefinitely woke and intellectual: “I don’t wanna care about modern art / I’m so fucking bored of acting smart / I just want to be dumb and in love”.
The album is a lo-fi mesh of pop/punk/synthwave with many tracks coming from the voice of a now-adult dealing with their then-childhood. Hurts To Be Alive, Partied To Death and The Golden One are all therapy sessions, with the appointments taking place in a darkwave basement.
Oscar Wilde said: “if you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you”. Throughout this album there’s an obvious intent to deliver sincere text with a humorous cushioned blow, as the lines become blurred between confessions and jokes; therapy or stand-up.
‘Songs From The Golden One’ is a personal and honest depiction of a traumatic childhood, but one that is impressively packaged to make you smile – and occasionally laugh out loud.