Light a cigarette. Find a table near the front, but not too close to the stage so as not to be seen. Hide in the dimmest light. Order a martini — make it two. Pull down the brim of your hat. Slip on a pair of cheap sunglasses. Pretend you understand every word coming from his mouth. Politely clap after the end of a stanza. Yelp when a political comment you agree with is stated. Pray that your wordplay could be just as crisp and incoherent as Uncle Jim's. Order one last highball before you collect your things and exit. Pretend your talents are in prose.
Superstars of Greenwich Meantime is an album any upcoming wordsmith should lean heavily upon when trying to find a niche all their own. Taking your cues from Alan Bishop's tried and true alter-ego Uncle Jim, your diatribes could be laced with witty and challenging maelstroms. All the albums of Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks will get you nowhere (politically) these days, and watching Henry Rollins or Bill Maher rant about matter close to few and understood by even less won't take you out of your living room where you lip sync to old 45s of Bill Cosby. Bishop has taken a dying art and brought life back into it. Superstars of Greenwich Meantime isn't perfect, but what spoken word album is? Frothing from the mouth, Bishop seemingly recites most of the album from the top of his head.
The album's opener, "Liberties," is chalk full of one-liners and stiff drinks. At first, the quiet guitars lead you into a tranquil meadow before Uncle Jim busts open the door with his insight and a boom box sampling Zeppelin's "Achilles Last Stand." The subtle "Flashback" is a collage of half-thoughts and sparse acoustics. Quick remembrances attack the ears from all angles. Musings about nothing help to prop up the slovenly and elder statesmen image of Uncle Jim. Is he the black sheep, the family drunk, or a worldly sage? The 16-minute title track prepares to answer these questions but opts to pose more answers to confuse. The track is a jazz odyssey, one that is a pleasure to take. However, the barbed wire jabs Bishop delivered previously have been tamed to spoken thoughts and rants we've all experienced in a sleep-deprived state.
The musings of Uncle Jim never grow old. Listening to this album on repeat, it's easy to get to the heart of the jumbled prose. This is more than art, and it's definitely art for the sake of art, but Alan Bishop truly has something to say; whether we can understand it is another matter altogether. Plenty of times the meaning is clear, while others cause head scratching and soul searching that leads to nowhere. Perhaps this effect is what the character of Uncle Jim is meant to create.
Superstars of the Greenwich Meantime may be the first great comedy or political album of the decade. It could very well be one giant waste of time and money as well. This is a rare case when the rating won't give you a clue to how much you'll love/love to hate this album. This is an occasion when the listing of styles and similar artists is a very loose guideline to the sounds and words contained within. This may be the biggest musical gamble of your life, and if you don't take it, you'll be kicking yourself and Uncle Jim will be laughing about it as he tells it like he thinks it is.
2. Foggy Lake of Swill
3. Graduation Day
5. After Hours
6. Superstars of Greenwich Meantime