Greg Tamblyn,
Saving the World from
Whiny Victim Love Songs

(TuneTown, 2003)

Greg Tamblyn is on a mission, Saving the World from Whiny Victim Love Songs. Not sad love songs, exactly, or involved ones, but dependent, obssessive, pathetic love songs. The kind that rule the radio, especially on dedication shows. Admit it; you know some. If you don't, he provides the top 10 examples, and just a brief snippet of any one of them -- desperate, self-abusive and immature -- shows how urgently needed this album is.

Saving the World from Whiny Victim Love Songs is a hoot and a half. The full hoot comes on the first, live disc, which is devoted almost entirely to comedy. Titles like "The Shootout at the I'm OK, You're OK Corral" and "The Great Liver Standoff of 1965" are made to force a smile all on their own, but Tamblyn's humor is deeper than gimmicky titles. His timing would be the envy of many a standup comedian. "Railroad Bill," a diaphragm-rattling tale of a writer, his hero and a wayward cat, would lose at least half its effectiveness with a less perfect delivery. His dry humor gives a touch of pathos to the absurd heartbreak of "Passing Trains" and a touch of real tension to "Near Death Experience."

Not that these songs are entirely dependent on delivery; Tamblyn has a knack for a well-turned phrase or a sly and painful pun, and isn't afraid to show off an optimism rare in observational humor. And he has an excellent partner, not in his occasional vocal allies, but in his guitar. It strums along or interjects with notes of disbelief or amazement, sometimes acting as a melodic straight man and sometimes as the wacky sidekick.

The half a hoot comes on the studio tracks disc. While generally more serious in tone, there are a few smiles to be found, lurking in a line or two or hiding at the tail end of the album. But for the most part, this is where Tamblyn shows his more thoughtful side. His unusual optimism is still at work here, adding levity to thoughts on existence and finding a hopeful side in the most depressing of human actions "One Day on the Fields of France." This disc isn't as packed with instant hits as the live disc, but is rather more durable and far more comfortable to hear in private. Humor is best shared; the lessons in these songs are, for the most part, the sort of quiet wanderings best done alone.

A quick listen to any generic radio station shows that Greg Tamblyn has not quite succeeded in his mission yet. The self-denigrating lovebirds and modern tragedians still dominate the airwaves. But for the span of two hefty albums, they get ousted with spirit, style and some darn singable tunes.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 17 July 2004

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