CD Review: Moved To Duarte by Les Bohem
Moved To Duarte by Les Bohem.
As part of the band Gleaming Spires, Les Bohem was a staple on the LA music scene in the early 80s. But when the cult following faded and the flame on his aspiring rock star career flickered out, Bohem put music on the professional back burner to become a successful screenwriter churning out films such as Dante’s Peak and Twenty Bucks. But music has always been a part of him and recently, Bohem decided to embark on his own solo project. His debut release, Moved To Duarte, is available December 9th.
Moved To Duarte is an ambitious first effort offering 22 tracks on two discs, a venture usually reserved for long established, highly successful musicians. The refreshing thing about Bohem is that he doesn’t seem to care what you think about his career choices at this point as evidenced by the opening track, “The Moral Premise.” “Working someone else’s dream/More than I could stand…/I’m depressed…/“So fuck you all/This ones for me…” From the acoustic guitar opening to the weathered vocals of a man weary from experience, to the sad lyrics masterfully laced with humor, “The Moral Premise” is the perfect choice to introduce himself to an audience.
Other noteworthy songs on side 1 include “Moving to Duarte” and “Put A Band Aid on My Life.” “Moving to Duarte” is authentic in its reality but heavy on the sad. It talks about cancer scares, losing money and insurance not paying the bills. “Moving to Duarte in case anybody cares…/Mary says we’re going to find our future there/But I say we’re just going there to die.” But “Put another Band-Aid On My Life” pleasantly surprises in its resiliency. Although the lyrics are loaded with terrible scenarios, Bohem offers a glimmer of light as he sings “Just patch me up and I’ll go out/I will try it all again.”
Side 2 emphasizes self-reflection and a longing for how things were with songs such as “This is Arcadia,” and “When We Used to Get High.” But the standout track is “Bruce Springsteen Dyes His Hair.” A fatalistic look at the passing of time and aging, Bohem also sneaks in a comment about the way in which our culture teeters between the relevant and the inconsequential. “Children die and bullets fly/And Bruce Springsteen dyes his hair.” It is a cleverly constructed track that will stay with you long after it ends.
Disc 2 side 3 has a little bit of everything. “Someday is Gone” and “Craftsman” journey further down the sadness spectrum with themes of regret and emotional pain. But the gold lies with Bohem’s tongue-in-cheek humor. “Everything from A to Z” is hilarious in its dark societal observations and all that entails from chickens to drug abusers and everything in between. No one is spared on this track as Bohem concludes by saying he “gotta get the fuck out of Azusa.” Overly serious listeners will mistake “The Way It Used to Be” for a Trump rally anthem but if you look deeper, you see a story about loss, the anger that comes with the changes life brings and the utter lack of control that we have over any of it.
Side 4 is much more melodic and instrumentally varied but the melancholic tunes continue on tracks such as “If I Lose My Cat,” “Monrovia” and “I Should’ve Died Young.”
“I Don’t Like the Movies Anymore” is a protest against Hollywood’s continual pushing of lies and the selling of false existences before Bohem wraps the release by making a gentle exit with “Soothe Me.”
Moved To Duarte is an extensive offering of folk-based music that is said to fall somewhere between Harry Chapin and Keaton Henson. There is an abundance of potentially depression inducing lyrics, but Bohem adds enough layers of complexity to his writing that the humor within most of the tracks keeps it all balanced. While Moved To Duarte has a fairly consistent sound and style throughout, it is highly relatable to anyone who has experienced loss, be it a best friend or faith in a system that has lost its way. Overall, it is a beautifully put together debut that is worth checking out.