Heartbreak is always there, and never more so than when we’re not thinking about it.
Tim Heidecker, best known for his comedic stylings with Eric Wareheim on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, has made a career out of making people wonder what can actually count as funny, and whether, at any given point, he’s “trying” to be funny. But the biggest revelation of the music he’s released, even on songs that are openly satirical in character, is that Heidecker possess a natural, intuitive musicality that transcends any (perceived or actual) comedic element one might be tempted to read into his songs.
On the Jonathan Rado-produced What the Brokenhearted Do…, Heidecker dips into the well of ‘70s singer-songwriting that, as a not-so-closeted pop sophisticate, he’s clearly influenced by, whether it’s Newman, Nilsson, Zevon, Browne, post-Beatles Beatles or other Laurel Canyon denizens. Though he doesn’t boast a great vocal range, he has an undeniable charm in his delivery, and not just for listeners who are familiar with his comedic oeuvre. Although there might be an inescapable “is he kidding or is he ain’t” quality to his musical performance, Heidecker’s latest album is a major challenge to both the naysayers and the sycophants. Otherwise put, it is an album for anyone who likes good songs.
For this listener, by the time you get to the third song (the title track), Heidecker’s delivery has already become irresistible. With its soft-rock vibe, it flirts with cheesy elements, sure, but Heidecker mostly plays it straight, delivering the lyrics with righteous conviction – even and especially when they verge toward the laugh-out-loud funny as they do on the bridge (“I was sitting there on St. Patrick’s Day in the village square/ She walked by laughing with her long green hair”), which aptly leads into an instrumental breakdown/outro.
And the laughs don’t stop there. But they aren’t comedy laughs – again, they’re the kind you get listening to the songwriters Heidecker seems to idolize most. “Funeral Shoes” is an especially good demonstration of this quality, with its homespun, earnest wisdom (“Home ain’t where I’m living, it ain’t where I want to be”) and disarmingly poetic details (“I’m coming back all dressed in black, but I didn’t think to pack my funeral shoes/ I sign the guest book, then I’m off the hook/ I hide my feet beneath the pews”).
For someone best known for his rather impenetrable veneer as a performer, Heidecker can veer seemingly effortlessly into openly vulnerable territory in a song such as the McCartney-esque “I’m Not Good Enough,” with its sing-songy “You should be with somebody else/ I should be alone.”
But despite its title, Heidecker’s album’s not all doom and gloom. For example, the Beach Boys-like “Insomnia” provides the listener with a much-needed dance break, and “Finally Getting Over” adds a Plastic Ono-era Lennon-esque snarl to the heartbreak. Yet, ultimately, heartbreak is where the album gets its emotional core and its stylistic center of gravity.
On the stand-out “I Don’t Think About You Much Anymore,” which features perhaps Heidecker’s best singing, the line “I don’t think about you much anymore/ Except when the sun is shining or I’m out at the store” encapsulates the emotional tenor of the album as a whole. Heartbreak is always there, and never more so than when we’re not thinking about it.