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Drugdealer: The End of Comedy

Michael Collins & Co. reference musical views of both past and present on The End of Comedy, and in doing so provide listeners a sonic smile.


The End of Comedy

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2016-09-09

The End of Comedy is the debut album from Drugdealer, a new group crafted by Los Angeles musician Michael Collins and his musical friends, all of whom work together exceptionally to grant listeners a plethora of past and present musical views. (In other words, it's as if they are reflecting the music on which they were raised.) This vibe is showcased on both the album cover and the pleasing contents within; in fact, the record made me smile from beginning to end.

The LP's first actual song, "The Real World (feat. Sheer Agony)", combines bending guitar riffs and breezy strumming to easily resemble much of George Harrison's solo work. Luckily, this trend is present throughout the album (particularly when Collins performs a solo). Along the same lines, the lyrics reflect their shared histories of hallucinogenic drug habits before leading to post-comedown spirituality and an appreciation of the living natural world. Take the following line, for example: "But please don't ever turn your face from the real world / It's such a psychedelic place / The real world." The aural Beatles references also pour out on "It's Only Raining Right Where You're Standing", although this song ends up being the weakest on the album because it does the least to add to this homage.

"Sea of Nothing" doesn't sound as inspired, even if the name fits right in with those from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Despite its see-sawing Western electronic sound teetering well (which is reminiscent of some Gorillaz and Beck material), the one-segment track really doesn't have to be around two minutes longer than the album's other songs (especially since they're multi-sectioned). To be fair, this is really the only qualm I have with The End of Comedy, as the same overly lengthy and repetitious issue also occurs on "Easy to Forget (feat. Ariel Pink)". That track has an incredibly charming beginning, but then it jumps into a singular type of chorus for the rest of its duration. That being said, the repetition here is interesting enough because its melody is gripping (in a way, it's like picking up a guitar while inebriated and playing a choice lick over and over again). With a beginning section this good, it's a wonder why Drugdealer doesn't choose to employ the same trick (moving back and forth between two contrasting, cool sections) on other tracks.

The two songs featuring Weyes Blood -- "Suddenly" and "The End of Comedy" -- employ this tactic, and are shining examples of how the album art shows off the 'dimensions' of its music. These two tracks are most clearly inspired by Carole King's piano-rockers. If the earlier track, "Suddenly", stems from "It's Too Late", then "The End of Comedy" is rooted in "I Feel the Earth Move". Shades of the Bee Gees and a more relaxed Tame Impala also ring through the groovy chorus of the former, and Todd Rundgren's admittedly King-inspired "I Saw the Light" shines through on the latter. Parts of the vocal melody and piano pairing in both songs also evoke the Beach Boys' "Disney Girls". Elsewhere, the same separation of airy passages and fun ones is instead reminiscent of the Moody Blues' "My Life".

The album's "Theme" pieces touch on the sadness of real life, with the intro track telling us that a very bluesy place is over yonder, in "Far Rockaway", as if our lives are the movies that get soundtracked by the tunes we choose to hear (as cheesy as it sounds, we're the stars in our life stories, after all). The middle one, "Theme for Alessandro", truly recalls the instrumentation on The Beach Boys' revered Pet Sounds, albeit in a much calmer way. As for the finale, "Comedy Outro", it summarizes the album's nostalgic vibes with a beautiful instrumental cushion on which to land. At first, I was disappointed by this brevity, but then I realized that the thirty-one minute run time is perfect for conveying its effects.

Also, the best of the Collins-only tracks is "Were You Saying Something?", a hypnotizing living-through-chemistry anthem highlighted by a simple trifecta of Collins' voice, a spaciously jangly guitar, and *spoiler alert!* a MAGical woodwind accompaniment. This demonstrates that while he can certainly make some incredible music all on his own, the fact that he brings in a group of friends to share in the creation and spotlight is respectable and selfless. "With a little help from [his] friends", he made an album so short and sweet that it's likely all you'll want to listen to for a long time. Why not dig into it and smile with me?


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