Palette Magazine

In Tune: Reviews of Treehab, Coming Out and the latest release from Tom Goss

By Gregg Shapiro

Coming Out
Coming Out

Disclosing the most intimate details about yourself, from the humorous and heartwarming to the obnoxious and downright despicable, is never easy. But sometimes going down that path is exactly what brings artists closer to their audiences.

Gaining Perspective

After two marvelous (and very funny) novels — 2007’s Selfish & Perverse and 2011’s Remembrance of Things I Forgot — gay comedian and writer Bob Smith returns to the memoir territory of his first two books with Treehab: Tales From My Natural Wildlife (University of Wisconsin Press, 2016). Smith, who was diagnosed with ALS, is one of the wisest of all wisecrackers, weaving jokes in and out of the fabric of his sentences, deftly navigating subjects such as fatherhood (he has a son and a daughter with lesbian comedian Elvira Kurt and her wife Chloë), his dog Bozzie, his love of Alaska, exploring nature with his partner and best friends, childhood hobbies and interests and, ultimately, his life with ALS. Through it all, Smith never fails to make us laugh, even amid the tears.

Through the Lens

By the second decade of the 21st century, almost as much about the coming out process has changed as has remained the same. The act of telling parents, siblings, friends and others can still be rife with anxiety, especially for those in more conservative parts of the world. But now technology plays an increasingly important role, particularly for the under-30 set. Texts, Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts are all used to explore, communicate and connect.

Coming Out (Wolfe), the full-length film debut by documentary filmmaker Alden Peters, makes use of that media-infused process to propel his very personal tale. Spurred by Tyler Clementi’s suicide in 2010, Peters embarks on a coming out journey that proves to be full of love, lessons and surprises. The fact that those around him — including his mother, stepfather, father, older brother and younger sister and brother, as well as his circle of straight friends — are more accepting of Peters sexuality than he is, proves to be powerfully revealing.

The film incorporates a variety of old and new footage, as well as interviews with out YouTube personality Kayla Kearney, trans activist Janet Mock, psychology professor Ritch Savin-Williams and sociologist Greg Hinckley.

Reimagined

Independent gay singer-songwriter Tom Goss continues his musical and personal evolution from clean-shaven corduroys-and-flip-flop-wearing gay folkie to sexy, scruffy, spiky haired queer rocker on his new album What Doesn’t Break (tomgossmusic.net). Goss hinted at this transition on 2014’s Wait, and he delivers. From the Skrillex-like synths on the youthful indiscretion confession of “Thirteen” and the adult language in the revenge-rocker “Someone Else” through the retro arena rock of “In For It” and the dance club destined “Long Way Back Home,” this new release offers a distinctly different sound.

As a nod to his devoted listenership, Goss sticks to his roots on “Mama,” “Forbidden” and “More Than Temporary,” with raw emotion. Of course, the artist also knows that a good part of his appeal is visual, so he gives his fans plenty to look at in the album jacket.

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