We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
Show of hands – who here would have expected Tony Scali (The Commish), Detective Vic Mackey (The Shield), Ben Grimm (Fantastic Four), or (most recently) Capt. Nathaniel Barnes (Gotham) to release an album? Right, neither did we.
But apparently, maybe we should have? In addition to being an actor, Michael Chiklis is a huge music fan. Although the only hint we really would have had is in his portrayal of John Belushi in Wired, Chiklis cites some pretty heavyweight musical idols from Adrian Belew to Rush to David Bowie (RIP). All of them – and a lot more – collide on his debut album, Influence.
It’s safe to say that, as a general rule, celebrity album efforts fall somewhere between “decent” and “abominable.” For every good outlier like Christopher Lee’s metal albums, there are Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, and Don Johnson atrocities to counteract it. And let’s be honest, William Shatner’s records are pretty terrible – but they’re so bad that they’ve transcended dimensional space to become the gold standard of celebrity records.
So, where does Influence fall in with this ranking? Not as embarrassing as Don Johnson (for damn sure), but not quite as lofty as The Shat. One of the drawbacks is that Chiklis and his band throw everything at the wall to see if it sticks. Latin flavor? Check (“Dime La Verdad”). Cover songs? We got ‘em (“Fame”). Suggestions for a new Monday Night Football theme? Sure (“Game Time”). Chiklis hits these and many, more points. There’s damn-near no stone unturned on this record; every kind of track you can imagine is here. Painful attempts at funk notwithstanding (“Little Bit’a Funk”).
The thing (heh) is, Chiklis isn’t doing this to cash in on some sudden fame like past contemporaries. Because of his lifelong love of music, Chiklis doesn’t humiliate himself like Bruno did in his return. He and his band bring enough knowledge and passion to the table to spare themselves that fate. Not every song is a home run (that funk track, for example), but there are enough twists of phrase, turn of pitch, and musical craftsmanship on Influence to make it mostly enjoyable.
It’s easy to dismiss the idea of a hard-ass like Vic Mackey cutting a record. The knee-jerk reaction would probably be to do just that. After all, fandom doesn’t equal competence, much less genius. However, Chiklis lets his love shine through and sounds like he’s having a blast at pursuing a lifelong passion.At the end of the day, Influence is Chiklis’s solid shot at pursuing his other love that’s worth giving a listen to.