I’ve written before about the prolific and many-talented Norm Sherman: a podcaster, multi-instrumentalist, song writer, singer and comedian with a truly unique voice. Several unique voices actually, thanks to his ear for accents. He occupies a position in geek-orientated on-line music and podcasting similar to that of George Hrab, another one of my favourites. But while Hrab has six albums to his name, the younger Sherman has two so far: his eponymous 2007 début and now the new The Esoteric Order of Sherman.
Both of Sherman’s albums are musical comedy, but where the first one is mostly bluegrass, the new one ranges widely in musical style: there’s rap, soul, punk rock, US folk, tearful ballads, AC/DC rock and a country number. All written and performed by Sherman himself, all recorded on a slim budget supported by a Kickstarter campaign. This is also the first time I’ve seen an album where the tunes are dedicated to individual patrons who have “commissioned” them and apparently requested themes. Most (all?) of the songs have been featured on Sherman’s short-fiction podcast The Drabblecast, one by one as they were originally recorded, prior to being collected on this album. This is a return to the original mid-20th century meaning of “album”, where for instance my dad collected Elvis singles in his physical Elvis album when he was a teen.
It’s an excellent record! The lyrics are hugely witty and the performances quite masterful regardless of genre. Don’t miss the pitch-perfect Bob Dylan pastiche “75 Lines”. (Its apparently surreal lyrics are brief summaries of the first 75 short stories read on The Drabblecast.) My only complaints are that the vocals are too low in the mix for me to make out the lyrics on the opening Beastie Boys pastiche “Babylon Battle of the Bands”, and that Sherman has left out his hilarious soul crooner paean to 3rd world breasts, “National Geographic Boobs” – obviously for legal reasons.
The lyrics are firmly planted in geek culture, dealing with Bronze Age rock & roll, giant Japanese monsters, H.P. Lovecraft, zombies, science fiction, fan conventions, cryptozoology and space tech. And perhaps incredibly, Sherman sings his heart out on the ballads in a truly touching way, although the objects of his unrequited love and endless longing are a giant mutated turtle, a Lovecraftian deep-sea devil hybrid and the fabled Mongolian death worm.
Norm Sherman lovingly and effortlessly appropriates the musical idioms of his eclectic favourites and makes them his own, to support weird and funny lyrics that really nobody else could write. Check him out!