Datelined "Historic Mariposa," the fateful press release came in like an angry wind, announcing the release of a self-produced album, "Ordinary Hero," by occasional Pigdog contributor Thom Stark, in the language and tone of a Major Event, setting off a brief firestorm around the pigdog mailing list.
First we had Stark, currently residing in Historic Mariposa, announcing to the world that he had, indeed, finally recorded the Great American Album, the one that would render all other American albums obsolete. Claiming to have spent 1,000 hours producing the thing (that's more than 40 days! All locked up inside his spare bathroom like that,) Stark also casually trumpets his "masterful artistry" and the "uniformly glowing reviews" of his "instant classic" -- and this is all before the "interview with the maestro" section of the press release where Thom gets to expand upon his otherworldly command of the guitar, the microphone, and the recording studio slash bathroom. But not before he informs us solemnly that "Ordinary Hero" is "a must-have
addition to any serious music collector's library."
So a few Pigdoggers saw the press release and did what Pigdoggers do best. Made fun of it. Now this didn't sit well with Thom Stark, who did, after all, spend an entire thousand hours in his bathroom squeezing out "Ordinary Hero." He lashed back, and I got caught in the backlash, and was compared to, I think, to either a schoolboy or a turd. I can't remember now and it's not important.
Hey! But what is important is that this author didn't even criticize his work and still got screamed at. All I did was question whether Mariposa was all that historic or not, all things being equal ("Mariposa has the oldest county courthouse building in California," writes Thom. "It's on the National Register of Historic Places -- as are several other Mariposa landmarks." That's good, but a quick check of the NRHP website reveals that Los Angeles, for one place, has 26 times the amount of Registered History as Mariposa -- and Los Angeles is supposed to be a city without any history, innit? And no one, ever has signed off from "Historic Fresno," despite its routing of Mariposa 26-5 in the databases of the National Park Service.)
Still, I threw one of the first rocks in the man's direction, and now I'm throwing more. So, in the interest of fairness, reviewing Thom's album here in the open, with a link to Thom's site, where the thing can be downloaded and the people can decide for themselves whether or not to believe Thom's almost surrealistically grandiose claims about his own music, seems like a decent sort of thing to do.
Besides, there are many things to like about "Ordinary Hero." We don't have to be so negative here. For instance, I enjoy the fact that it has exactly ten songs on it. If you took all the songs ever recorded off of all the albums in the world and divided them by the number of albums, you would get a result of right about ten; ten, then, is the average number of songs on a record album (and therefore the correct number,) so when Thom got to ten, he stopped right there and drew a line in the sand. No master of overstatement, Thom comprehends the concept of average perfectly.
Also, the album cover is very pleasant. Look! Thom is looking at us through a tree! And it looks like he has just woken up. In this era of superinflated rockstar egos, and performers wasting thousands upon thousands of dollars on overly glossy, preening publicity photos (something even my beloved White Stripes are guilty of doing from time to time,) it's refreshing to see a performer like Thom Stark who just doesn't give a shit what he looks like on his album. And he gets extra style points from me for wearing an anachronistic getup of some sort of striped white shirt, vest, and floppy leather hat of the sort last seen on "F-Troop". It's not just anyone who can pull off retro style with such panache.
There is also the subject of song titles, and Thom makes a strong case for his greatness in this area as well. "The Streets of Laredo" is a nice, macho sounding title. I can imagine a cowboy, in a cowboy hat, walking down a dusty street, holding a chain saw, when I think of this title. "Along the Mighty Merced" has a certain ruggedness to it and conjures up for me mental images of many women with large breasts wearing skimpy bikinis, inner-tubing down that very river the last time I camped alongside it, several years ago. And then there's "On the Way to Palestine." I don't really understand that one, but I think Palestine is the town where PFC Jessica Lynch is from, so Three Cheers For Our Recaptured POWs or something like that. I'm glad they caught those fellows! Perusing the whole list of fare of "Ordinary Hero" you'll see that Thom has no problems coming up with perfectly decent song titles and would never resort to any of that spelling things like "dogg" or "gangstaz in tha houze" or putting the numeral "4" in places where it doesn't belong or any of that. Thom is above that kind of thing and seems to realize the importance of being earnest when creating the Great American Album.
And although I don't have a physical copy of the work in my hands to make a definite judgement, I'll give Thom the credit here and vouch that "Ordinary Hero" is pressed on a high-quality compact disc, that the album's packaging is crisp and professional, and that the shrink wrap is sturdy, yet not overly difficult to open. I'm guessing that you can hold this album in your hands and think to yourself "I am holding a musical CD in my hand right now."
There. I've said some very positive things. Or at least some things.
The music on the album? I haven't listened to one second of it. I don't think I will. Listening to the album would very likely only spoil my appreciation of it. Because I'm pretty sure right now that "Ordinary Hero" is the greatest album ever recorded ever; actually listening to it would only taint the heady feeling of stumbling upon such a passive masterpiece. Likewise, I would suggest that anyone reading this immediately order a copy of this album from Thom, pay him the $12.50 he's asking for, and, upon receiving it in the mail, put it on a shelf or into a cluttered box or somewhere hard to reach and never open it.
I think such a demonstration on all of our parts would be the finest tribute we could show to the music of Thom Stark.