MARTY FINKEL – Sleeping with the Stars
“I’ve got fifty songs with the same three chords / I’ve been murdering the same words every verse,” Marty Finkel confesses in the first line of “Do You Still Understand Me?” Hmmm, is he sure he wanted to tell us that? Actually, even though this song occurs only halfway through Sleeping with the Stars, we’ve already started to suspect just that. Not that this is a bad thing really; his gently strummed confessionals are uniformly likeable, even as they are all indeed somewhat uniform. This truly is the Marty Finkel show; all songs were written, recorded, and performed by him. And the artwork? Finkel again. With the simple drawing and five-point stars that decorate the CD liner, it’s a bit of a relief that he didn’t pay anyone else to do it.
The songs are also all about Finkel, whether they are truly autobiographical or not. Seven of the thirteen listed tracks (the fourteenth, the lullaby “My Little Star” is a hidden track) begin with the word “I.” The best of the rest is the atypical “Are You Sleeping?” in which he actually gets a little worked up. A threatening guitar backs bitter lyrics about a relationship gone so wrong that you hope this one isn’t a true story. He spits lines that could have been swiped from Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst: “And tonight I saw you walk away/ From someone who offered you everything you need/ And then you turned around to say/ ‘Happily ever after’ is just a phrase,” with such conviction that you feel like you were there. The simple statement, “Are you in love or just insane” from the first verse resonates as one of his best.
In fact, the lyrics stand out as the real reason to give Stars more than just a cursory listen before discarding him as a yet another sad-sack Nick Drake wannabe. Track four, “Another Round,” while not a joyful toast, isn’t quite of the tear-in-my-beer variety either. Personal admissions like “I thought I told you I’m into madness/ And yours has pulled me in/ I saw you downtown delivering sadness/ To me and all of my friends,” hint at a deeper ache. Though many are depressing, none are so completely drenched in sadness as “Good-Bye,” the requiem whose chorus of “Good-bye, baby/ Never thought I’d have to say those words / Now you’re sleeping with the stars” supplies the title. In this case, the simple melody accurately reflects the somber mood, but if Finkel wants to keep anyone but the most morose of listeners interested for an entire disc, he might need more than three chords.