Bob Hillman

Bob Hillman

Welcome to My Century

Brave New

I like clever songs, and I like funny songs, and I like intelligent people. But this album of clever and funny songs by an obviously intelligent guy doesn’t sit right with me somehow, and I can’t recommend it. I just don’t know why.

It’s not that Hillman doesn’t know his way around a tune, in an Adult Album Alternative sort of way. “Valentine’s Day” is a hook-filled weeper for old dudes like me who are past our wild primes; it’s got a cute repetition trick to tie the verses together, a made-for-singing-along chorus (“This is how it is / Me and my / My accomplices“), and just enough guitar so that it doesn’t sound like wimpy folk music. “The Latenight” boasts some pretty Eagles-esque steel guitar work and some lyrics that show some careful craft: “She got up and sent me packing / Sadly, I was sorely lacking / Sense, and sound financial backing / Good night, Irene.” And he’s cute and he sings okay and he’s probably a hell of a lot of fun in concert.

But on most of these tracks, Hillman overdoes it. If it’s not too many ideas (“Tolstoy,” which drags poor Leo Nikolayevich into a boring old romantic story), it’s too many corny jokes (“Greenland” is about a woman who’s “twice as cold” as that huge frozen place, come on) or too much contempt for the audience. This latter attribute is most in evidence on “Bolted Down,” a song that is supposed to parody the image “other” people have of New Yorkers — pushy, isolated, dangerous — but pretty much just goes to show that Hillman believes all those stereotypes. Which just ain’t right.

I’d hold out hope that this is just early-career nerves, and that Hillman will change, but I don’t really think he will. He’s off the radar until he learns that eternal singer/songwriter rule: Less Is More.

Bob Hillman:

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