Jeff Giles is a fucking asshole.
I know Iâ€™ve said that before. And Iâ€™ll say it again, partly because itâ€™s fun, but mostly because itâ€™s true. Hereâ€™s why:
Longtime readers will note that we have somewhat of a code here at Popdose. It says that, if someone gives you a gift of music, the least you can do is listen to it once, regardless of quality. This code was created by, wait for it, Jeff â€œFucking Assholeâ€ Giles. And thatâ€™s the joy of Earmaggedon â€” torturing your close friends with the gift of music.
So after Jeff nearly caused me to rethink my position on capital punishment with Rappy McRappersonâ€™s Live at Amway Arena, I sent him opera singer Cathy Berberianâ€™s misguided attempt to turn Beatles songs into arias. That was in March 2012 and he still has not listened. Every time Iâ€™d bring it up, heâ€™d gripe about being too busy with work or family commitments or home improvement projects and that heâ€™d try to get to it when he can.
Berberianâ€™s album is 35 minutes long.
I even recently sent him Gregg Allman and Cherâ€™s unfortunate â€œAllman and Womanâ€ album, Two the Hard Way, to remind him that he had an obligation. Still, nothing. Thankfully, he’s fully aware that he’s a miscreant, or else I’d have a copy of that new Barbra Streisand duets album in my download queue.
Meanwhile, immediately after sending him Berbarianâ€™s album, I got an e-mail from Amazon saying that Dee Sniderâ€™s Dee Does Broadway was waiting for me. The nerve of Jeff Giles, who, may I remind you, is a fucking asshole. So now Iâ€™ve had this thing for two and a half goddamn years taking up valuable space on my iPod that could be reserved for half of yet another bootleg from Bruce Springsteenâ€™s 1978 tour. Iâ€™m really left with no other choice but to sidestep the rules and review it in the hopes that it exposes Jeff for the prick that he is.
For the record, I really like Dee Snider. For starters, heâ€™s a fellow Long Islander, which always goes a long way with me. Iâ€™ve heard a bunch of interviews with him over the years and heâ€™s always been down-to-earth, smart and funny. And I love that he got the words â€œsick motherfuckerâ€ entered into the Congressional Record when he testified back in the days of the P.M.R.C.
His music, on the other hand? Well, thatâ€™s a different story. I mean, I liked â€œWeâ€™re Not Gonna Take Itâ€ as much as any white, middle-class suburban teenager who had no reason to rebel and didn’t know what “it” I wasn’t going to take, but otherwise Twisted Sister was never really my thing. Still, the rules are rules (see Jeff?) and I listened to him giving the heavy metal treatment to a recordâ€™s worth of Broadway classics.
Snider mostly sticks with songs that fit his persona. As a result, much of the lyrical matter leans towards decadence, camp and the macabre, so you get stuff like â€œCabaret,â€ â€œThe Ballad of Sweeney Toddâ€ and â€œMack the Knife.â€ That works in his favor, because it wouldnâ€™t have made sense for him to gently croon â€œEdelweissâ€ or do a jaunty romp through â€œGet Me to the Church on Time.â€ Strangely enough, Fats Wallerâ€™s â€œThis Joint Is Jumpinâ€™,â€ of the few tunes that doesnâ€™t match that criteria, translates relatively smoothly to a hard rockinâ€™ party anthem and works the best. â€œThere Is Nothinâ€™ Like a Dame,â€ featuring a few Broadway veterans contributing background vocals, also has its moments.
Sniderâ€™s voice, it must be said, is in fantastic shape. Youâ€™d think 30 years of being a heavy metal screamer would have shredded his vocal chords by now, but he was still able to match belter extraordinaire Patti LuPone note-for-note on a medley of â€œTonightâ€ and â€œSomewhereâ€ from West Side Story.
To his credit, you get the feeling throughout that heâ€™s in on the joke. Heâ€™s not making some stab at credibility here with a sensitive reading of the Great American Songbook, nor is he trying to show his fans that thereâ€™s another world out there. It just seems like he recognized that there were some showtunes that fit in neatly with his image and decided to have a laugh by doing them up Dee-style.
Thatâ€™s also the problem. Yes, he sounds great, but the sly wit found in these lyrics needs air to bring out their subtlety. Instead theyâ€™re bludgeoned within an inch of their lives. And he sings them in keys that often cause him to switch registers between lines. Most importantly, these songs simply donâ€™t lend themselves to metal, and there are plenty of times where the arranger must have said, â€œThese chords are too complex. Fuck it, play an A.â€
Then there are the duets with the guest stars. LuPone, ever the pro, is up for the task, but Cyndi Lauper adds precisely no element of seduction to â€œBig Spender,â€ the vocal stylings of Bebe Neuwirth — who should know better — doesnâ€™t mesh with the arrangement of â€œWhatever Lola Wants,â€ the sooner I can delete Sniderâ€™s and Clay Aikenâ€™s assault on â€œLuck Be a Lady,â€ the better.
At its best, â€œDee Does Broadwayâ€ barely rises to the level of failed vanity project. If you think of it that way, itâ€™s kind of fun, even if youâ€™ll never have a reason play it again. I’d like to think Giles sent me this because he felt bad after the McRapperson situation, but that would imply that he has a conscience.
Jeff? We’re waiting.