Tim Heidecker - Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs

by Jon Burke Rating:8 Release Date:2017-11-10
Tim Heidecker - Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs
Tim Heidecker - Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs

Disclaimer: I get nervous even discussing the comedy of Tim Heidecker, much less attempting any critical analysis of his work. The man has an entire podcast/web series, On Cinema (now On Cinema at the Cinema), dedicated to mocking the self-indulgent nature of modern criticism. His show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, somehow managed to be a cutting edge indie comedy program, which completely mocked anything highbrow, simultaneously. Basically one never knows at any given moment if Tim Heidecker is being serious (or honest?) or if he’s having a laugh at your expense. So what follows is my attempt to wrangle what seems to be one of the few truly decent protest albums of 2017 which also functions as a joke about pop music and protest music at the same time. Wish me luck…

Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs opens with “Trump Tower” a piano ballad in the vein of The Commodores' “Easy” or Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” The song seems to mock privileged white liberal outrage that hides behind a keyboard while everyone else is busy being oppressed. It's an interesting way to greet one's core audience and a good reminder of our own complicity in this mess. What is immediately so impressive about Heidecker’s music is his understanding of both his limited range as a vocalist and his much greater range as a musician and how certain styles and genres of music work well with those abilities. He also masterfully crafts songs in the vein of certain protest artists without ever aping their music. Thus, while Heidecker deploys his best sneer on “Imperial Bathroom,” he never sounds like he’s trying to parody Elvis Costello. Instead, there’s an amateurish sincerity to the track that somehow makes this song about “Trump’s dumps” oddly compelling. Sure it’s scatological but the Steven Nieve-esque keyboard fills and hilariously poetic litany of junk food the President consumes, prior to said dump, is too perfect to be dismissed as mere parody.      

Speaking of too perfect to be dismissed, “For Chan” is an oddly touching tribute to the sad little alt-right nobodies who spend their time on 4chan doxing and trolling people they disagree with. Heidecker paints a rather pathetic picture of these trolls as huddling together for warmth against the cold light of reality, and using groupthink to justify their nasty behavior. One of Heidecker’s criticisms is that said trolls are overweight which, frankly, seems like an all too easy and unnecessary critique. That said, any concerns about fat jokes are quickly washed out to sea with “Mar A Lago,” Heidecker’s Jimmy Buffet-style smooth rock tribute to Trump’s home away from home, Mar-a-Lago. Never before has Trump’s in-over-his-head plight been so clearly expressed than when Heidecker sings about the paradox of Trump’s love for the adoration of a crowd and his complete disdain for the individuals within that crowd: “Sure I like to get on the mic/ And gin up the crowd/ But I’d rather be on the tee/ Where those folks aren’t allowed”

One of the most interesting songs on Too Dumb for Suicide is “Trump’s Private Pilot.” The song, which comes across a bit like ‘70s Dylan or Neil Young, points out the way Trump scares people everywhere he goes and the complicity the pilot feels in that fear. The song takes an even darker turn when the pilot notes he’s set up a trust for his children and plans to crash the plane after leaving Cleveland, “screaming justice for you all!” on the way down. There are two versions of “Trump’s Private Pilot” on the album, Heidecker’s original and a Father John Misty cover which is simply stunning. The interesting irony in choosing Father John Misty to contribute to the record is the bizarre, dare I say Trumpian, persona Misty exhibits in interviews and on stage. Father John Misty may as well be Kanye West for all of the ignorant, uninformed nonsense he’s spouted over the years, and also like Kanye, for all of the brilliant music he’s given listeners too. What the cover accomplishes is to point out not only the brilliance of Heidecker’s lyrics, but also what happens when FJM shuts up and plays. The results are haunting.

The album concludes with “Sentencing Day,”  a fantasy about the hopes, fears and anxiety of the day before Trump faces the justice of a truth and reconciliation committee. It’s an oddly hopeful note to end the album on. Like waking up from a nightmare... 11/3/2020 can't come soon enough!

Overall it’s hard to know what to make of Too Dumb for Suicide. Everything on here is pretty good, musically speaking, and lyrically the ideas Heidecker presents run the gamut from scary to hilarious to disgusting and tragic. Though I probably won’t have this record on heavy rotation, I am very glad for the opportunity to have heard it and find it to be one of the most important pieces of political satire dealing with our current administration to date. I don’t know Tim Heidecker’s true intentions with this album in terms of who is being mocked and when, but I do know for certain that even if I don’t always “get” his humor, Heidecker is an important ally in the fight to take back our national discourse from the fascists who currently control it.

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