Album Review: Will Wood’s ‘Normal Album’ pushes through absurdity to reach a broader message
The Normal Album is anything but normal.
Instead, Will Wood’s latest LP is a genre-less collection of wacky tracks that will leave you confused but acutely aware that normal doesn’t necessarily mean good. It digs up long-lost genres like doo-wop (“I / Me / Myself” especially) and new wave to prove its point, adding layers to this fringe pop record that plays like a Broadway soundtrack. Behind the scenes is producer Jonathan Maisto (Dillinger Escape Plan, Foxy Shazam) and a guest appearance from Matt Squire (Panic! At The Disco, Ariana Grande, One Direction) bringing it all together and making use of the crowdfunded $28,000 that was raised in one day on Indiegogo.
So, what would the story be, if The Normal Album was indeed a musical? That depends on how closely you’re listening. The album explores normality, of course, and conformity and the age-old question we ask ourselves upon experiencing something unfamiliar: Is this normal? Musically, its elements convey a longing for simpler times—decades even before the 80s, which is the centerpiece of nostalgia in current pop culture. (Longing for the 80s is normal, you might even say.)
Upon a closer listen, however, it’s a bit parodic. “Marsha, Thankk You for the Dialects, But I Need You to Leave” is a perfect example: Wood’s voice soars with a sort of grandeur, but his words are, “Back in my day we didn’t need no feel-good pills and no psychiatrists / No, we just drank ourselves to death.” The song isn’t what it seems on the surface but rather is blatant commentary: Today, being normal comes at a price. Is it worth it?
Rest assured, the rest of the tracks on The Normal Album are properly absurd with names like “Outliars and Hyppocrates: a fun fact about apples” and “…well, better than the alternative.” The spirit of Will Wood & the Tapeworms remains intact. There is simply a vocal departure, Wood using a greater range and clarity not seen on previous albums. First time listeners would never know that Will Wood has gritty vocals on tracks with the Tapeworms.
Getting past the absurdity, therefore, is the hardest part. Underneath it is a wealth of social commentary that’s sure to provide plenty of material for future live shows that are imbued with stand up comedy, acrobatics, and other elements that remind audiences of the circus. At the end of the album, you’ll realize that was the point the entire time. “Normal” is just a facade, as is the case anywhere else.
Stream The Normal Album, out now!
Story by Taylor Gilliam
Photo credit: Jake Feldman