Music &Lyrics: Joe Iconis
Director: John Simpkins
Reviewer: Carrie Carter
Though currently making a name for himself as one of Smash’s latest composing recruits, Joe Iconis has been a fixture on the contemporary musical theatre scene for a while now, and on listening to Things to Ruin, it is easy to see why.
Iconis is clearly an extremely diverse songwriter, switching seemingly effortlessly from effective comedy in songs like Just Means and Helen, to the desperate sincerity of Good for you (the best song in this collection), to the youthful fire of Never Heard Nothing, all with exuberance and passion.
Things to Ruin is an album constructed with honesty and care, due at least in part to the obvious camaraderie of the cast, many of whom are regular performers of Joe Iconis’ work. Their harmonies and the blend of voices in the ensemble numbers make them sound almost like a collective rather than individual performers, and there are parts of this recording that make it difficult to ever imagine them in other combinations (The Bar Song is a particular example). The feeling that this album has been created with love is among its greatest triumphs. The whole thing feels like a party that you want to be involved with, and the fact that Iconis is so creatively involved, as both producer and musical director, is apparent in the obvious attention paid to the crafting of the track listing, as well as the selection of performers.
Although Things to Ruin contains moments of genius (the afore mentioned Good for You and the hopeful Almost There deserve particular praise), the album does feel slightly too chaotic in parts, and listening to all 20 songs at once proved to be too much guitar-driven angst for one sitting. As individual pieces, Joe Iconis’ songs are bold and stirring; as a whole album, Things to Ruin could come across as whiny and trying too hard to provoke a particular reaction.
Despite any slight misgivings, Things to Ruin showcases Joe Iconis, who is surely on the precipice of Broadway superstardom, both effectively and excitingly. For individuals on the cusp of discovering the contemporary theatre canon, it probably doesn’t get better than this fun, poppy collection, which is an easy introduction into the world of relatable theatre. However, seasoned listeners may find themselves craving something more subtle, which, although hinted at beautifully in the understated Albuquerque Anyway, never quite materialises in the collection.