A map to Duarte, California might as well be a map to another dimension where regrets and grievances live. Perhaps Duarte has something similar to the hum in Taos where it drives some people crazy, or in this case, causes them to hold court with their demons. With Les Bohem’s Moved To Duarte, we find him moving in and out of a mosaic of motifs and life experiences which only he seems capable of mastering.
Leslie Bohem is known as a former member of East Coast bands Sparks and Gleaming Spires. But he’s best known for his work as a screenwriter and his success from working with Steven Spielberg. With that kind of clout, I was at first conflicted with acknowledging the authenticity of the world that Moved To Durate describes.
That’s before you soon realize how natural it is for Leslie Bohem to let the screenwriter and the songwriter take the reigns when he needs them. Leslie is the guy who wrote Hollywood blockbusters including Dante’s Peak and The Alamo. But when listening to his music, he might as well have written Alexander Payne’s Nebraska or something for Jim Jarmusch.
It wasn’t Leslie’s fault with what happened to Dante’s Peak and The Alamo after the screenplays left his hands. If what he’s written for the screen is a testament to how well he can steer a creative project into becoming a success, Steven Spielberg himself has given Leslie credit for the entire Taken miniseries, saying that it’s all him.
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If that doesn’t sell it for you, perhaps the Emmy on his desk will?
I imagine that Moved To Duarte is what would happen if Les Bohem wrote, directed, and scored his first film. As a full-length double album, he’s already sold me because I’m the type of guy who gets excited over director’s cuts.
It’s taken me some time to absorb the first disc of Moved To Duarte because I want to live in it. I found myself being transported immediately every time I put on my headphones.
The last time I did, I felt like I was on the dole, getting my government payout to take care of my tab at Ruby’s Bar. All of it shot in glorious imaginary black and white by the way.
“The Moral Premise” hits you like the death of a loved one, where you’re forced to sit down when it does. Try fighting it and you insult the self-reflection and deny honoring all the living that person did. It’s okay to let this one hit you. Just double-over and take it.
Les Bohem makes a good case for this song. His “fuck you all” is so genuine, I’m thinking that could be an adult version of that scene in Half-Baked with a standing ovation at the end.
I take interest in internal band conflicts and wonder if his account of playing in a band helping to make someone else’s dreams come true, is true? But then there are stories of other people and their experiences throughout Moved To Duarte.
Just listen to what to me sounds like civil war style ballad called “Put A Band-Aid On My Life”.
I’m reminded of Nick Cave’s first love with music before he embraced his love for film. I also feel the need to point out that Les Bohem’s music has often been compared to Tom Waits, which on the surface is fitting.
But, I’m on the one who sides with the view that Tom Waits is a gimmick, a lout and a novelty act that should have bowed out a long time ago. Les Bohem isn’t that. His ability to fictionalize life as a screenwriter isn’t him conning the people.
I imagine if Tom Waits wrote any screenplays, they might not go the distance Leslie Bohem’s have gone. In either craft, Les Bohem is serious about his storytelling, whether it’s in the technicalities behind it or with the story itself.
Moved To Duarte is Bohem’s first full-length album and also quite ambitious for him to go for a double-length. Judging from (and I do) his creative history, Les Bohem has successfully pulled off some “Fancy Footwork” to make a career out of telling stories. The snare brush percussion makes the track dance and catchy. I feel as Leslie does, I just want to thumb my nose at people with day jobs. I’m sure he’s got it in him.
His second disc is like the stuff you only get to see in the director’s cut. Another comparison would be with letterbox version of a film where you get to see everything around the edges. You get to hear more about what I think are his feelings of the industry he’s in with “I Don’t like The Movies.” Also, he’s aware of the uprising of nationalism with the song “The Way It Used To Be” which sounds as if it were written by one of them “flyovers” who voted for America’s first dictator.
It also reveals that Leslie Bohem is a punk rocker. The East Coast music scene is in his bones. The emotions conveyed through these tracks are genuine, whether they’re fictionalized or not. Some of these songs could have been eating away at him and he had to get them out.
That eating away has happened to him many times before which is why he’s written/sold a lot of songs to singer-songwriters who have a talent for harnessing the bleakness, such as the late Freddy Fender and Emmylou Harris to name a few. By the way, get yourself a copy of Bohem’s novelette “Flight 505.” it might clue you into his punk rock past.
He doesn’t skimp on presentation either. As if powerful vignettes weren’t enough, he’s got pianos, cello, accordion, steel guitar and vocal accompaniment to flesh out the songs to make sure you feel the impact. If you’re one of those random track playlisters, I would sprinkle these songs throughout your playlist to surprise yourself.
Les Bohem is one of those unique vessels who can go deep into another dimension and reliably temper the regret, the grievances, the rage. The gritty reality Les Bohem puts into Moved To Duarte is heartbreaking and frightening. As you can well see, he likes for you to feel it too.
The album is available on BandCamp! Also, tune into Leslie’s new series on Hulu, Shut Eye!
[Featured image by Leslie Bohem/Instagram]