Sunday, 4 October 2009

Criminally Underrated Albums of the 2000's: #10

William Shatner - Has Been

An odd way to begin the list maybe, but it's my view that Has Been has not only been underrated but also highly misunderstood. With the lead track off this album being the high camp, novelty cover of the Pulp classic 'Common People' most have assumed that the rest of the record follows suit. Strangely for a man that's long been regarded as a joke, what's actually delivered is a tender and affecting record, with the punchline that after all that's been said – Shatner can act.

It only needs one listen to songs such as 'That's Me Trying' and 'Real' to realise that the piss isn't being taken here. The humour that's on show is just another side to the man, it's not gaudy or showy; it's just human. Admittedly it's not William 'Captain Kirk' Shatner that's the real genius behind this album's construction, not that it detracts. Producer/songwriter Ben Folds ensures that the hooks are present enough to make this an unashamedly pop record, whilst Lemon Jelly (on 'Together') bring the atmosphere and sense of collaboration.

That Shatner's method of delivery is, as it always has been, a slightly ham-fisted spoken word style, with (historically) terrible Shakespearean style over-dramatics has certainly thrown many off the critics from Has Been. This in itself isn't surprising really, as it's hard to take seriously something that's been so widely parodied (Futurama's Zap Brannigan being possibly the most notable example), yet here it's done not only knowingly, but so well that it manages to rise above itself and it's critics.

As the Rick Rubin assisted American Recordings turned a certain Johnny Cash from a country has-been into a timeless musical icon, Has Been should have certified William Shatner's place in pop cultural history as humorous and flawed yet decidedly brilliant entertainer

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