So very desperately, I wanted this to be good. Alas, it is very very remotely far from anything good. It’s not the line between clever and stupid; it’s just foul smelling putridity. Spinal Tap’s bassist Derek Smalls, who might be best known for his “Jazz Odyssey”, cannot hold a tune. There must be a reason why Smalls sings the fewest lead vocals of the three Spinal Tap members. He’s all but unlistenable.
The gimmick on Smalls Change is twofold. It’s a collection of songs about getting old, which is a crappy concept to start with. There is nothing wrong with songs that have some life experience, but who wants to listen to a tune about an MRI? Who wants to think about it all? The second gimmick is the roster of guests: old fogie buddies like David Crosby, Steve Lukather, Paul Shaffer, and so on. There are few somewhat younger folks here too, such as Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, and Phil X. But the guest stars can’t save it. Admittedly, the lyrics are sometimes funny. “Butt Call” is about butt dialing! “Nobody speaks, handset by the cheeks.” “Memo to Willie” is about erectile disfunction (get it?), a subject I’m sure you like singing about as well. Then there’s “Gummin’ the Gash” which you can figure out for yourself.
The biggest problem is the voice, which is a cross between a garbage disposal and Otto the bus driver.* No amount of Spinal Tap references can save it. When the singer cannot sing, then Houston we have a problem. And the thing goes on for 14 tuneless tracks! An hour of gargling words out in an English accent. Without a David St. Hubbins or a Nigel Tufnel to carry the melody, Smalls is sunk. When there is an actual melody, that is.
We sadly have to proclaim Smalls Change as the worst, most unlistenable album of 2018. Clearly, a lot of time and money went into making it, but don’t invest any of yours.
* Yes, of course we know that Derek Smalls is played by Simpsons actor Harry Shearer. If Otto was British, this could have been his album.