Tim Minchin‘s story is one of many failures and victories. Seemingly as stop as it was start, Minchin is now one of the most recognisable Australian artists anywhere in the world. It may have been a slow burn for him, but ever so slowly and surely the West Australian has managed to cultivate a persona and catalogue that will be remembered for a long while still.
Here on his debut studio album, Apart Together, Minchin places his lived experiences (from struggling musician to thriving and award winning composer) at the forefront and paints the picture of not only someone who is very self aware and at times modestly sardonic, but also of someone who on the inside may be as uncertain about their success as the rest of us.
With many of his previous works spread across the better part of the past two decades, the musical and comedic sort-of-genius has always been able to create art that was simultaneously thought provoking, wisdom filled and as sharp as you could expect from a multi-pronged threat. While he’s developed his following and become famous via the world of comedy, Minchin has always described himself as a musician and composer first, with comedian trailing somewhere behind. On Apart Together, Minchin is very much musician first, all the while keeping you on your toes with his dose of observational humour and ever-so-wordy lyrics. And while yes, there are moments of genuine wit, much of Apart Together centres on themes of love, loss, longing and wanting.
As with much of his previous work, Minchin draws his musical content from his own life and the journeys he’s gone through getting to this point. This is evident on “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight”, a story of temptation and moral compass questioning. Written about the temptations he’s been dealt whilst on tour or working away, the vivid imagery Minchin molds as he takes us through a confronting story of knowing where his priorities lie, creates a world encompassed of orchestral bliss and genius. With hints of the dry humour we’ve come to know from him, “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight” is Apart Together at one of its peaks. With elements of sincerity similar to “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight”, “Airport Piano” is an observational journey as Minchin allows us into his thoughts as he crafts yet again another piece of magic, this time while waiting for another flight at another airport.
As I’ve said, Minchin’s career has been somewhat of a slow burn. After spending years hacking away in Australia, his big break came at the Edinburgh Fringe, which in turn lead to London and a long term stint in Los Angeles. Which takes us to his return to Australia, via the five minute journey of “Leaving LA”. Lead by his undeniable piano, “Leaving LA” takes us through the mindset of someone who’s been eaten up and spat out by a relentless and thankless industry. Painting the city as nothing more than pure hell, the bridge of “Leaving LA” pretty much sums up the musical genius that exists across the entirety of Apart Together.
The biographical “Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long” is the most musically different yet relevant track on the album, as Minchin takes us play-by-play on his journey from Perth to the heights of his career; all the while taking down the media who have done their best to mute his commentary on everything from politics to religion, history and the industry. Constantly questioned for his morals and particular oeuvre, “Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long” is almost definitely Apart Together at its best and most pure.
With much of the album’s tracks hovering near to five minutes each, if you weren’t familiar with Minchin’s previous work, you could find listening to Apart Together a bit of a task. Admittedly I’ve followed his work since his “Canvas Bags” days, so can appreciate his need to indulge in longer, grandiose, Broadway ready moments (“If This Plane Goes Down” is one of those songs you can picture Minchin has written to appear in a stage show, while “Summer Romance” would fit just as well in a musical). With this in mind, I can’t begrudge anyone for getting a little restless listening to the album in full.
If you’re going to take just one thing from Apart Together, let it be that Minchin is a romantic at heart. Having spoken previously about not believing in ‘The One’, Minchin has an undying love and affection for his wife, daughter and family, all of whom are key cogs and characters of the album. “I Can’t Save You” is a sappy track of Minchin wanting and willing to help where possible, while “The Absence of You” is an obvious four and half minute ode of his longing for his wife when he’s away from her. “Beautiful Head” is a fun, rock opera that is all too familiar for anyone who has dated anyone ever, as Minchin speaks about knowing someone in and out but having absolutely no idea what they’re thinking.
While it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Tim Minchin’s Apart Together is a musical masterpiece to help wind down 2020. It is an album from an artist who’s been through a heap to get to where he is now, and manages to distill every drop of that journey in all of the eleven tracks. It’s pure, great and honest; ironic, funny and true.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Tim Minchin’s Apart Together is out Friday November 20th through BMG Australia. Pre-order the album HERE.
Tim will be performing Apart Together in its entirety tonight in a one-off concert at the iconic Trackdown Studios. The concert will be streamed at 7pm (in your time zone) and will available for just 48 hours and only accessible to ticket holders. Secure a ticket HERE.
Tim has been announced as one of the acts performing at Perth Festival 2021, playing Kings Park with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra on February 5th. Tickets are on sale now, and can be found HERE.
Header Photo: Damian Bennett.