Michael Cera – True That

michael I have to confess I am kind of amazed by this album. There is no reason to assume that a famous actor won’t have musical skills of course, but if you’re my age it does remind you rather worryingly of our generation’s attempts to bridge this particular gap. Russell Crowe’s Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, for example. Or Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar. Or Juliette Lewis and the fucking Licks.

Well this generation has no such worries. Instead they have Ryan Gosling’s fantastic Dead Man’s Bones. Gosling, it must be said, has quite enough going for him as it is so I am not sure it is entirely fair for him to be awesome at music as well, but there’s no denying that he is.

Michael Cera is a little different, of course. Yep he’s a star, but hardly a super-smooth ladies’ man, and funnily enough this album ends up suiting that difference in perceived style pretty much perfectly. It’s eccentric, a little muddled and bumbling at times, but utterly charming and in the end an entirely captivating listen.

I’ve not looked much into whether or not True That is genuine, but the Guardian seem convinced, so I am prepared to both take them at their word and also to not really care if it happens to be the work of someone else after all. It’s still bloody excellent.

Mostly instrumental, and resolutely lo-fi, it sounds almost as if most of it could be improvised, meandering along as if it feels no particular pressure to go anywhere except where its fancy leads, and that might be the crux of the charm of this record. It seems to feel absolutely no pressure to be anything other than what it wants to be.

It seems weird to think of a world-famous movie star as being able to make something as approachable, unaffected and just plain friendly-sounding as this. I would at least have expected it to struggle with self-consciousness, but it doesn’t. I’ve listened to a fuck of a lot of this kind of music, remember, and I am very much used to bands trying to affect either modesty or indifference to mask either cast-iron ambition, crippling insecurity or snobby style-consciousness and I really don’t hear that here at all. It just is what it is.

Which is not to say this album is going to be the next big hipster thing, I don’t think. It’s too odd and self-contained for that, and there aren’t really pop songs, per se. There’s a cover of Blaze Foley’s Clay Pigeons I suppose, and Ruth is really nice, but lots of the album is composed of solo piano gently pottering along, or perhaps accompanied by minimal keyboards or a bit of acoustic guitar. Half the tunes are a minute or so long, some a bit jazzy, others slightly more folky, and while not so many of them have that wide-eyed sense of thrill, exactly, they are absolutely lovely and even the least structured have their place – there’s no filler here.

I don’t really know what he wants to do with this, either. Maybe nothing beyond this simple Bandcamp release. It certainly doesn’t need anything more than that but at the same time, whilst it doesn’t seem like the kind of release which would suit a massive PR campaign, it still seems a bit of a waste for it to just sit there on the internet with no fanfare whatsoever.

Weird, interesting, and surprisingly completely natural. Fine work, sir.

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