A COLLAPSE IN JUDGEMENT
Imagine a post-punk, slightly operatic band that is equal parts Captain Planet, The Cars, Jim Henson, Victor/Victoria, a Fisher-Price Glow Worm, Judy Garland, Al Gore, Bill Black’s Combo, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Liberace, Klaus Nomi, the Beach Boys, a midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Cyndi Lauper, your elementary school field trip to the planetarium, The Cure, Echo and the Bunny Men, Smokey the Bear, a Bedazzler, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Costa (the piano player from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood), 1950’s educational film, courtroom Mrs. Hackett from Cry-Baby, Tiny Tim, and a little bit of Hollywood lounge lizard…and you’ll have Timur and the Dime Museum. Their current world premiere at REDCAT, Collapse: A Post-Ecological Requiem, is a song cycle about environmental destruction flanked by a live-feed projected requiem for our dying planet.
There is no easy way to describe Dime Museum. Although unique, they are not exactly original. The group is a melting pot of musical influences, both popular and obscure. The tirade of references at the beginning of this review is not a sarcastic exaggeration, but a close approximation of what Dime Museum sounds like, albeit filtered through the orchestration of an operatic tenor, drums, keyboard, accordion, ukulele, bass guitar, and electric guitar.
Singing lead vocals, operatically-trained tenor Timur has a tremendous voice and huge vocal range both physically and stylistically which he couples with over-the-top diva emotive showmanship and slight sarcasm. Composer and lyricist Daniel Corral is the precise, coolly composed heart of the band on accordion and keys. Timur and Corral are well-balanced by Andrew Lessman on drums, Matthew Setzer on electric guitar, and David Tranchina on bass guitar, all of whom manifest Dime Museum’s robust sound.
Each song in Collapse is about various types of ecological disaster. The continuously played music isn’t great, but it is good and lots of fun – the sort of music you would love to dance to if not for the guilt-trip inducing lyrics about bee colony collapse, radioactivity, flooding, nuclear disaster, atmospheric hypoxia, and the gradual trash plasticization of our oceans. Aesthetically, the live camera and found content feed by Jesse Gilbert pulls the whole production together. Gilbert mixes live images of the band with images of pollution and nuclear destruction.
Collapse offers an unapologetic, artistically perceptive report of the damage the human race has done to Earth. It doesn’t sugar coat anything, just unassumingly states simple truisms through an ironic lens for the audience to internalize as they see fit. Considering the utterly grave state of our environmental context, it is surprising that more artists are not broaching the subject on a large scale. Timor and the Dime Museum may be recycling many styles, but maybe that’s what it takes to bring environmental issues to the forefront of their audience’s mind.
Music performances at 8PM in the REDCAT Lounge precede every 8:30 show of COLLAPSE:
March 27 was The Goodnight Ladies
March 28 will be Ketchup Soup
March 29 will be Jocelyn Raulston and Steven Van Betten
photos by Sandra Powers and Jill Steinberg
Timur and the Dime Museum
Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater
at Walt Disney Concert Hall
scheduled to end on March 29, 2014
for tickets, call 213-237-2800 or visit www.REDCAT.org
for more info, visit www.timurandthedimemuseum.com