When I was about 21 or 22 years old, I was good friends with two guys of about the same age whose idea of a good time was to go to a video store and rent the stupidest video they could find. They had perfected this activity into a ritual. The fun started in the store with the selection process. Once they agreed on a video, they would take it home, watch it and laugh about it like maniacs. I joined them once. They had been doing this for some time and had developed selection criteria that would ensure finding the worst movie in the store. A bad cover design was a good starting point, they told me, but the one thing that would almost guarantee a really bad movie was that one person did multiple jobs. If they found a video, where the main actor was also the director, the scriptwriter, the producer, the costume designer, and any other thing you can think of, they knew they would not be disappointed.

The same thing that was wrong with the movies my friends enjoyed watching is the thing that’s wrong with Charming Timur’s album of collected works titled So Far, So Good: One person doing, or trying to do, every job, when the job is one that requires, let’s say, three people at least.

While there are one-man projects in the wider rock genre, good ones are rare. Yes, Atom and his Package is fun, but watching him fiddle with his computer on stage is not my idea of a good show. I imagine that’s exactly what it would be like to see Charming Timur. A guy with a computer and a lot of sound effects.

Damir Avdić, the punk poet from Bosnia, is terrific all on his own (Check out his song Lucifer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2v_PuNpDoE you tube video with English captions). His stage presence, his guitar playing, his lyrics, his voice… He is scary. He will make your blood freeze. This guy has seen the ugly side of life, you can hear that, you can tell. Everything about him is raw and authentic.

That’s not the case with Charming Timur. While I certainly don’t want to make fun of anybody’s life experience, because life sucks for everybody to a certain degree, after having listened to all 18 tracks repeatedly I must say that I don’t think that this twentysomething from Finland has something to tell to the world that would endure the test of time.  And that’s the agreed upon criterion for good art. It needs to be original, relevant and relatable decades from now.

The press info says „So Far So Good represents the culmination of a life spent toiling as an underground career-musician…a cautionary-tale of the grim realities, hardships and psychological breakdowns & breakthroughs that have been endured, all in the pursuit of art”. Well, mate, Finland is one of the countries in the world with the highest living standard, according to the OECD better life index (http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/finland). You have a high employment rate, free health insurance, one of the best free state educational systems in the world, and some form of guaranteed income as a citizen. How do you think your hardships compare to underground musicians and people in general in countries like Bosnia, Brazil or Bangladesh?

The info also says that you do post-metal, experimental metal, noise. You really don’t. What you do is a mixture of The Sisters of Mercy, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo, Ruby, Smashing Pumpkins, only with less instruments and more electronica sounds and devices. That’s not metal. That’s pop music. And you growling, or rather howling, on one track doesn’t make it metal. And you sure do love your cymbals.

Recording bits of music, or generating them electronically, putting them in a loop, and then trying to sing differently on each track creates something, but it isn’t good music.

So Far, So Good is an achievement, certainly. The fact that someone so young, on his own, with no one to split the costs with, can choose to be a career musician, can finance all this, can hire a PR company to get them reviews and audiences, can get someone seriously dealing with their work means they belong to the privileged ones. You’ve hit the jack pot, mate. You just need to make your work much, much better.

As for my friends, I haven’t seen them in over a decade, since we don’t live in the same country anymore. One of them is dead. He died, barely 30, of testicular cancer. Yes, life sucks. Rest in peace, Dominik, and thank you for the inspiration. The other one is married with three children, last time I heard.

(3/10 Slavica)