Henry Rollins

A Rollins in the Wry

by Dave Heaton

19 February 2001


Henry Rollins took an odd, some might even say misguided, turn with the Rollins Band last year, dismissing the tight, jazz-influenced players and replacing them with a bluesy hard-rock trio. If he lost me a bit with that turn in his career, there’s no better way to win my attention back than with another of his spoken-word releases.

Rollins’ spoken word performances are, generally speaking, three-plus hours of his perspective on life. At times he’s like a super-cynical, punk rock version of Jerry Seinfeld or Woody Allen, taking the minute details of everyday life and complaining about them ferociously and hilariously. At other points he’ll comment on current events, rip on other musicians, give detailed reports about places he’s traveled, deliver self-deprecating treatises on relationships, and tell touching stories from the lives of people he’s met. In short, he’s all over the place, but he never sounds like he’s rehearsed his words, or like he’s trying to put on an act. He just gets up there and talks. Some of what he says is funny, some of it interesting, and some of it a bit overbearing, but it’s rarely boring.

cover art

Henry Rollins

A Rollins in the Wry

US: 20 Feb 2001

The single-disc A Rollins in the Wry is another collection from one of those appearances, recorded during two shows in the spring of 1999 in his home-turf of Los Angeles. Both shows were part of a weekly stint at a club called Café Luna. While none of the funny parts are quite as funny as some of his best recorded pieces (especially those on the two-disc collections The Boxed Life and Think Tank), and none of the more serious tales are as moving as his best work (like on the video Talking From the Box), it’s still an entertaining collection filled with interesting tales and humorous, timely quips.

Humor and emotion are subjective things, so each listener would no doubt have a different opinion about the funniest or most interesting parts. For me, the best parts of A Rollins in the Wry are when he tells interesting stories that happened to him in his life, such as his trip to Israel, which he relates with the giddiness of a little kid, or the letter he received from a fan from the Czech Republic. The most dull parts, for someone who has heard many hours of his spoken-word gigs, come when he falls comfortably back on some of his favorite topics, like the awkwardness of buying condoms or the intensity of Black Sabbath. Still, throughout he manages to make me laugh and think and pay complete attention, which is the most I’d expect. With his spoken-word performances, Henry Rollins has managed to mine out his own unique territory: Not quite comedy, not quite autobiography, not quite poetry, but always compelling and always a whole lot of fun.

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media


Stevie Wonder Takes a Knee as Green Day and Others Also Speak Out at Global Citizen Festival

// Notes from the Road

"The 2017 Global Citizen Festival's message for social action was amplified by Stevie Wonder and many other incredible performers and notable guests.

READ the article