It can ¬be damn near impossible to tell whether or not anything either Tim Heidecker or Eric Wareheim do outside of their Tim & Eric personae is to be taken as genuine or a sendup of who knows what. That this stigma continues to follow them wherever they go and in every artistic pursuit, comedic or otherwise, is the result of their carefully cultivated brand of bizzaro leftfield comedy. Interviewers approach them with some trepidation, never sure whether they will be privy to or butt of the joke—assuming there is one—and to what degree. When interviewed on his WTF podcast, Marc Maron sounded noticeably on edge throughout the his entire interview with both Heidecker and Wareheim, never allowing himself to settle in to the conversation for fear of being caught in the midst of some absurdist performance art piece. But those listening closely will hear in Heidecker someone trying for all he is worth to play down this element of his personality in favor of having a conversation as himself, without any pretense or layered irony.

This same level of trepidation will no doubt greet In Glendale, Heidecker’s first release under his own name. And given the somewhat mundane, everyday subject matter and throwback aesthetic within which it is presented it would be easy to view the album as a piss-taking pastiche. But as with his “straight” interviews, there is a decidedly raw and naked element to Heidecker throughout In Glendale. Far from a comedian playing it straight for the sake of the joke, In Glendale finds Heidecker playing it straight for the sake of playing it straight simply because that is where he now finds himself. In other words, those looking for the usual blend of public access-style absurdity and human grotesquerie will be advised to look elsewhere.

Somewhat surprisingly—assuming one can still be surprised by anything Heidecker takes on in the wake of his 20-odd years pushing the limits of comedy, decency and tolerable human behavior—In Glendale is largely a throwback, Los Angeles singer-songwriter effort that finds Heidecker adopting something of a Randy Newman/Warren Zevon approach to songwriting. Singing unaffected and for all the world sounding entirely without the slightest hint of irony, Heidecker proves himself a more than capable songwriter who has spent a fair amount of time listening back through his Warren Zevon records. This apparent in-depth study helps inform both his narrative voice and ability to flesh out not only the mundanity of his day-to-day, but also the characters that might otherwise pass unnoticed.

Throughout, In Glendale feels something of a spiritual successor to the work of Zevon not only thematically and tonally, but also in Heidecker’s delivery (check “Good Looking Babies” in particular). With neither possessing the strongest of voices, they nonetheless push it to its physical limits in order to convey the requisite emotional tone without falling into parody. To be sure, In Glendale isn’t entirely devoid of humor. “Ghost in My Bed” toes the line of the expected Tim & Eric absurdity from a lyrical standpoint, opening with the line “I put your head in plastic bag/ And I buried it beneath the Hollywood sign”. But much of the rest of the album is little more than a matter-of-fact chronicle of where Heidecker is in his life as a husband, father and white male living in 21st century Los Angeles. “Central Air” knowingly teases Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Our House” with its opening line, making it something of an updated version of the classic look at idealized post-hippie domestic bliss. Alternate album title: Sketches of 21st Century White Male Domesticity.

“I Saw Nicolas Cage” in and of itself could be something of a joke. But the title alludes to just that: Heidecker seeing Nicolas Cage and then ruminating on his own place in both the fictional world of Hollywood and the real, everyday world in which he exists. From there it takes yet another turn into leftfield territory as it chronicles the death of four children in a family “[who] weren’t liked” in a car on the highway. It’s a somewhat maudlin, sour note on which to end, but it manages to shift the listener’s focus from that which doesn’t matter (i.e. celebrity culture) and that which does (getting to know those who coexist around us).

As a whole, In Glendale is almost too earnest for its own good. This is no fault of the material, rather the source. Unfortunately, it can be next to impossible to separate Tim Heidecker the actor/comedian from Tim Heidecker the songwriter. But for those able to separate the two, In Glendale offers a great deal to enjoy in terms of its cohesiveness as an album, both musically and thematically, and the surprising strength of the songs themselves.

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