Henry Rollins, ‘Talk is Cheap’

By • Apr 17th, 2007 • Category: Album Reviews

Henry Rollins has always been funny. The problem is, until recently, he’s never tried to be.

Whether it was fronting the seminal L.A. punk band Black Flag or fronting the less punk and certainly less seminal Rollins Band, and as a published poet, magazine columnist, radio personality, video game character or occasional movie actor, the 46 year old has always been unintentionally humorous.

But he’s also always been likeable, as his over-the-top extreme sport attitude is slightly endearing. And no matter what superlative he’s throwing around, what cause he’s petitioning or what new venture he’s hocking, he’s harmless if treated like a kid who is telling his family that he’s going to be president someday – just smile, pat him on the head and agree. Because pretty soon, his attention will be focused on something else.

The problem with Rollins’ career-hopping is that he always seems to be portraying a character. Like he knows what a rock star is supposed to sound like, how a movie star is expected to act, what a poet is supposed to say and what the stereotype of each kind of celebrity is. And he’s going to make sure to play those roles to the best of his acting ability.

Which is why choosing to record the “Talk is Cheap” series in front of a live audience makes him sound like a bad stand-up comedian. Or rather, what Rollins thinks a stand-up comic is supposed to act like. You can almost picture him pushing up the sleeves on a bright plaid blazer before going into his shtick. Had he recorded these rants about everything from getting asked for change on the street to President Bush privately in a studio, there would be an air of seriousness about them. But now, he just resembles a struggling jokester yucking it up somewhere with a two-drink minimum.

That actually might be the funniest part of the recording: picturing a muscle-bound man with no neck jumping on stage to tell one-liners about why NASA shouldn?t care about traveling to Mars (“It’s pink!”).

Unfortunately, that’s not supposed to be the joke.

Northern Star, April 17, 2007

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