For their second album, comedian Tim Heidecker and composer Davin Wood looked back about 35 years to the musical landscape of the late ‘70s and copied what they saw. Need a Claptonesque guitar anthem? Try “Cocaine”. Want a Jackson Browneish piano ballad? “Coming Home” fits the bill. Fiending for Hall & Oatesy keyboard pop? “This is Life” has you covered. Miss everything about the Boss’s classic records? Have no fear! There are several tracks on Some Thing Never Stay the Same for you.
The album starts with its strongest song, the tongue in cheek “Cocaine”, which finds the guys putting a slight sardonic spin on a staid rock trope. When they take this approach, as they also do on the colorful “Getaway Man”, the songs have something beyond boilerplate lyrics and capable but underwhelming ‘70s-indebted compositions. When they don’t, the songs struggle to distinguish themselves, and not even appearances by Aimee Mann and the Fruit Bats’ Eric Johnson can save them. The city street swagger of “Sunday Man” rings hollow, and the gospel-choir-meets-guitar-ballad of “Salvation Street” is especially unconvincing coming from Heidecker, a man who has made a living crucifying such worn out tropes, who would turn that cliche into a killer joke in any of his other artistic pursuits.
It seems as if Heidecker & Wood knew this, and the album is intentionally front-loaded with snappier jams while the second half is weighed down by songs that could have used more charm and less fidelity to their source material. Ultimately, Some Things Never Stay the Same is exactly as it seems: a mash-up of classic rock styles that too seldom gives the listener a reason to not simply listen to the music that it emulates. For the rigid prescriptivist who believes that all “real music” died with John Lennon, this album may have lasting appeal. For most, though, it’s a single-listen vanity project: not as endearing as Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him, as interesting as Ryan Gosling’s Dead Man’s Bones, as straight up rocking as Jared Leto’s 30 Seconds to Mars, or as batshit crazy as Macaulay Culkin’s The Pizza Underground. As far as such projects go, you could do worse than Some Things Never Stay the Same. But you could also do much better.