The most popular of the hundreds of posts about Brett Kimberlin here at Hogewash! was not about his lawfare or his Dread Piracy. It was about his musicianship. It’s time to recycle it again with an update at the end—
Back in 2002, Brett Kimberlin fronted a band named Epoxy and released a CD called Nothing Else. The story he spun promoting the album was that it contained songs that he had written while he was being held as a political prisoner in the federal prison system.
The band consisted of Brett Kimberlin on guitar and vocals, Wade Matthews on Bass, and Robbie White on Drums. The genre of the album is someplace between grunge and punk, neither of which are among my favorite musical forms.
Let me first comment on Mr. Kimberlin’s voice. I had heard his speaking voice in court, and I understand why some people refer to it as whinny. His singing voice reminds me of the silly voice that Weird Al uses on tracks such as Eat It. Mrs. Hoge, who listened through the CD with me, said, “Eddie Haskell.” On most of the tracks his voice was off key, usually flat.
Most of the songs could have been filler tracks on a generic grunge album. Some of the alienation in them seems to be more appropriate for a 17 year old, not someone 30 years older. Mr. Kimberlin was in his late 40s when the recording was made. However, three of the songs stood out. Vicegrip was actually interesting musically. Donuts had clever lyrics. It’s about lousy prison food and would probably get a nod of approval from G. Gordon Liddy.
Then there’s the last cut Keyhole. It was outstandingly bad. Mrs. Hoge and I met while we were in the music business, and during her career as a recording engineer, she recorded more gold and platinum records than I did. Her comment was, “If you’re gonna mike a guitar that close, you should use a better guitar and make sure it’s in tune. And get a better guitar player.”
While he didn’t do especially well with the acoustic guitar on Keyhole, Brett Kimberlin is actually a reasonably good guitarist. He probably couldn’t cut it in Nashville or LA, but could make a living in a minor market (such as Seattle) or playing the Holiday Inn circuit. Indeed, the world would be a better place if he did ignore the usual advice and give up his day job.
Nothing Else by Epoxy (Pollen Records, $16.04 from Amazon) is interesting because of who recorded it, but I can’t honestly recommend it for the musical experience it offers.
UPDATE—Aaron Walker’s review of music videos by Op-Critical, The Dread Pirate Kimberlin’s latest band, can be found here. Another Op-Critical video can be found here. On 5 December, TDPK and Op-Critical released a new music video called “Coal Miner’s Family.” It’s lurking on YouTube, and it deserves a review.
First, a decade of practice has not made any significant improvement in TDPK’s musicianship. The song is supposed to be about a family caught up in the Upper Big Branch mining disaster of 2010. The band seems to be striving to sound like an Appalachian folk group, but it doesn’t seem to have the chops to get there. Instead, it hits that level of mediocrity one hears from urban local bands at East Coast bluegrass festivals.
Second, the choice of subject matter is interesting. Op-Critical is the house band for Justice Through Music Project, an organization with the stated purpose of using “famous musicians and bands to organize, educate and activate young people about the importance of civil rights, human rights and voting.” How a mining disaster relates to that escapes me, but I notice that over the past year, JTMP has promoted anti-natural-resource-development causes such as the Tour de Frack. And now it’s taking on coal mining. And it has a major donor with possible connections to the environmentalist wackos who put Brandon Darby on a hit list. Hmmmm.
Third, listening to a Brett Kimberlin song’s treatment of the loving relationships among family members reminded me of Bruno Graz’s brilliant performance in Downfall. I don’t mean the scene that has been the subject of all those parodies. Graz’s performance showed a view of a man who was throughly evil and yet was kind to many around him. Mark Singer’s portrait of TDPK in Citizen K shows a similar, albeit less powerful, personality.