Arts

Bob Schneider is Good Now, but there’s still room for improvement

Bob Schneider has been third on my “going-to-make-it-big list” for some time now (right behind the Beatles and Nirvana—I’m crossing my fingers). He’s got that “if you dig Dave Matthews, you’ll like this” type of attraction. It’s a guarantee that if I’m listening to Bob Schneider, anyone wearing flip-flops or a tie-dyed shirt will be interested. The problem is, he’s something of an underachiever. All his albums would be great if you could just remove one or two songs, i.e. “Jingy” and ” Bullets” on his previous release Lonelyland. He always seems to try to cover too much ground. Diversity is good, but I just don’t want to hear a funk song next to a folk ballad. That said, Schneider has an unparalleled gift for writing heartbreaking songs—not songs that make you want to cry per se, but rather songs that make you shake your head at how sad life is. His new album, I’m Good Now, has been three years in the waiting. Is this finally the one? Unfortunately not.

The album actually starts out fabulously. The first track “Come With Me Tonight” uses the same palette as Schneider’s previous work, but the production has been expanded somewhat—there is simply a lot more going on. In fact, the first five tracks all show lots of artistic growth. Schneider has always had a marvelous knack for melody, but these tracks are just perfect in that respect. The “baby, baby let me in” in the chorus of “Medicine” is so well timed and melodic, it’s almost too catchy. “A Long Way to Get” shows the same sadness that the brilliant “2002″ had on Lonelyland, with a newfound country influence. And the title track, in addition to being an absolute standout, bears a strange resemblance to the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba.”

However, after these tracks, I’m Good Now just tanks. Schneider falls into the trap of trying to be too cute. “God Is My Friend” has lines like “I can see God on a cloud in the sky/On top of the world watching the world roll by/With a great big grin and some good cocaine/Jesus by his side in the pouring rain.” What is this Train-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks shit? Then Schneider decides it might be a good idea to switch into cock-rock mode with “C’mon Baby” and “The Bridge Builders.” These songs are simply a career low. I mean, it’s almost like what a collaboration between Nickelback and Creed would sound like—and that’s being kind. Schneider should remember that he does sad way better than he does angry.

That’s unfortunate, because after these three tracks, the album gets quite good again. “Cap’n Kirk” has undeniable quirky-hit potential. Schneider shows electronic influence on “Piggyback,” with the Postal Service-like drum machine track and grainy, looped vocals. It’s also the most well written track on the album, with that Schneider trademark maudlin feel and lines like, “And mama had to go away/But daddy says I’ll see her again/One day soon/When we go to heaven.” “Getting Better” is something of a misstep—it picks up where the previously mentioned “Bullets” should have left off. Schneider also decides to do what seems like a Tom Waits impression at the end, for no apparent reason. So how does this experiment go? I’m sure Tom Waits is rolling in his, err…house. The final track, which is unlisted in the liner notes, is a perfect ending, with beautifully orchestrated violin parts and delicate guitar work.

I swear following Bob Schneider is like being a Red Sox fan—I’m always saying “this will be the one,” and it never is. It’s really too bad. Cut three songs and this would have been a great album. I mean, it might have been fine if they weren’t so obnoxiously in the middle. Bob Schneider is good now—but I still think he can be much better.