Album Review: Scott Schoenberg – Reunion

[Self-released; 2021]

What can be said about this one? Singer-songwriter Scott Schoenberg‘s debut album Reunion evokes thoughts, feelings, emotions inside me that I haven’t felt since I was a wee lad, wearing my favorite t-shirt (a light blue jersey with white stripes at the shoulders with block letters and numbers boldly printed on the front which proclaimed ‘Hawaii 80’. Yeah I’m that old). This music though, man, it puts me right back there and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

I press play and opener “Bridge to Nowhere” begins, placing me in Palm Springs in the summertime with my grandparents again. We’d pile into the sedan and make the long trip from San Francisco down I-5 and then eventually east. Summertime was the best time for us because life in Palm Springs in August was hotter than most locals could bear, and the innkeepers would offer their air-conditioned rooms at cut rates. We’d stay at a shitty little motel called the Hyatt Lodge that had absolutely nothing to do with the more luxurious Hyatt hotel experience, but the dump offer shuffleboard and 110 °F temperatures in the shade were nothing to a scrawny little kid whose greatest pleasure in life was getting to hang around his grandparents. 

So yeah Reunion is a great little album. I’m listening to this and I’m feeling fucking old and nostalgia is welling up inside me and there are tears in my eyes. When did life become so… unrecognizable? I know us older folks aren’t the only ones who feel it either. There are plenty of 20-somethings who feel the same angst and ennui. Life has changed forever and it’s not this Covid-19 bullshit that’s the culprit – nah, it started long before this. I used to have this girlfriend and we’d go out to eat together a few times a week and we’d always end up laughing at the couples that were glued to their little portable devices. We’d pick a couple and make up stories about them to pass the time. We’re all so fixated on our digital devices nowadays, we don’t even really see each other anymore. In listening to this album, I can tell that Scott Schoenberg is a man who’s lived a life without being glued to his digital device; this dude is hyper-observant of the world around him, and unfortunately that world isn’t all sunshine and cotton candy.

There’s a line from the track “Burn” about some older relatives of Mr. Schoenberg that were presumably Jews during a most unfortunate part of history. They met their end by eating a dessert laced with poison just to escape the atrocities ahead. This hits me hard like I’ve been smashed by a truck. My whole life I’ve been a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, but lately I’ve been contemplating my own mortality and I’ve even gone as far as fantasizing about suicide. Alcohol used to help with this; so did opiates, cannabis, PCP – pretty much anything that would turn my mind off momentarily. As I get older though, I’ve learned that nothing really helps anymore with that feeling of hitting a certain age and realizing that they lied to me. I’m not talking about my parents, although they lied to me too. No, I’m talking about everybody: teachers, news personalities, popular musicians, forgettable faces from the endless barrage of TV commercials, presidents and other politicians, Jim Fucking Davis of Garfield fame (yeah fuck you too, Jim). They sold me on a dream that life would be about as close to perfect as one could ever get, and all I had to do to get there was be fortunate enough to be born American and put my right hand over my heart and chant the “Pledge of Allegiance” everyday before class started. I’m quite certain that Mr. Schoenberg is roughly the same age as me, and I also suspect that he’s come to similar epiphanies in his own life.

I don’t think this guy Schoenbgerg is going to become the next Bob Dylan, but I think he should. There are striking similarities between them beyond the poetry – this dude Schoenberg can paint a picture with a guitar that’s nothing less than poetic. There’s a Dylanesque sound to his voice that if I didn’t know better, I might think I was listening to one of old Bob’s basement tapes. It’s a peculiar alchemy though here at work – Schoenberg sings Dylan better than Dylan sings Dylan. You kind of have to listen to it to understand what I’m talking about.

You know, if Reunion was released in the late 70s or early-mid 80s, Scott Schoenberg would be a household name. But sadly, we live in a time dominated by Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Judging by online pictures of this dude, he looks a little on the scruffy side. Don’t get me wrong, he’s quite a handsome gent, but he ain’t K-Pop material either. He’s the last of a dying breed. I have a feeling even if he does achieve fame in the music industry, he won’t be one of those clowns that lets handlers dress him and slather makeup all over his face after they’ve expertly added bleach accents to his locks. Comedian Bill Hicks put it best: “When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children to listen to people who fucking ROCKED! I don’t care if they died on puddles of their own vomit. I WANT SOMEONE WHO PLAYS FROM HIS FUCKING HEART!!!” You’re absolutely right, Bill, and I think you would have really liked Scott Schoenberg’s music too.