Album Review: Drugdealer – The End of Comedy

I really didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to review the new album by Mike Collins, the man who is Drugdealer, all I knew was that Collins had been on the LA music scene for a number of years and that he had a reputation for his Carole King-esque piano playing. I went into The End of Comedy blind and really not knowing what to expect.

It starts with “Far Rockaway Theme”, an instrumental that sounds for all the world like an update of the jazzy sounds that Tom Waits explored during the mid-70s. From there it’s a change of pace with “The Real World”, a beautifully mellow slab of strummed indie-pop, heavy on melody and some really quite lovely whistling. It also features Sheer Agony, the first of many collaborators who feature throughout The End of Comedy.

The second set of collaborators, Weyes Blood, follow in hot pursuit, as “Suddenly” manages to switch effortlessly back and forth from piano ballad to disco-beat pop without sounding clumsy, before eventually coming to an end with the sound of a rainstorm and the sound of a bell.

These musical non-sequiters are another feature of Drugdealer’s debut. At first they seem to disrupt the flow of the album, but as it changes tone and pace, as well as features so many guest vocalists, they actually start to make sense, and after a few listens the stylistic leaps are actually really enjoyable, as the album effectively turns into a sort of musical kaleidoscope, constantly shifting and revealing things you didn’t expect as you spend more time with it. At different points I frequently hear the Carole King influence, but every now and the album tonally shifts, reminding me of acts like The Villagers, The Magic Numbers, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Fleetwood Mac or ELO, then suddenly between the tracks there’ll be the sound of a typewriter, or someone walking down a corridor, and you’ll find yourself being engulfed by the strings of a Burt Bacarach style ballad. In lesser hands it could sound like a clumsily compiled mix tape, but on The End of Comedy it really does work, resulting in an album which seems to exist in its own purpose-built universe.

The End of Comedy is a curiously enjoyable listen which seems to evolve slightly every time you listen to it, and is one of the most out and out fun albums I’ve heard this year. It’s pop music for those of us who are unimpressed with what currently passes for pop, and that’s a really clever thing to pull off. The fact that it can jump from the string laden “It’s Only Raining Right Where You’re Standing”, to the late 60s / early 70s singer songwriter style title track (a cracking tune which features the second appearance by Weyes Blood), without jarring the listener is a stroke of genius and as an album, The End of Comedy is considerably more cohesive than it has any right to be.

The End of Comedy is an album which holds your attention to the very end, with the penultimate track, “My Life”, being one of my favourite songs on the album, before “Comedy Outro” returns us to the jazzy street sounds that opened the album, before closing with the sound of one of the most unsettling laughs I’ve ever heard. It’s a weird way to close an album, but hey, this was a weird album, so it fits.

If you’re a fan of indie-pop and are looking for something just a little different, then I implore you to check out The End of Comedy. It’s one of the most refreshingly surprising debut albums I’ve heard for some time and I for one will be keeping my eyes out for the name of Mike Collins / Drugdealer on further releases.

The End of Comedy will be released on 9 September on Domino.

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