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Bill Fisher – “How To Think Like a Billionaire” – Everything Is Noise

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A billionaire sits, alone, orbiting the Earth in a rocket his company built. The vast expanse of space stretches above him, while our delicate blue world lies below. All of humanity, all its creations, all its achievements, good or bad, are fully within view. As he drinks his cocktail, he considers where he is, what his voyage means. And in that consideration, the deeper meaning he finds is that yes, he is better than all the poor bastards below him. They could never understand. And also, why isn’t this spaceship more luxurious?

This is the impression that meets us humble listeners in “Overview Effect”, the opening track off Bill Fisher’s new album How To Think Like a Billionaire. Self-released on his own Septaphonic Records with only a short lead-up, Fisher’s third solo album caught my attention very quickly when the leadoff single “Yell of the Ringman” crossed my feed referring to itself as ‘yacht doom’. As a guy who’s a sucker for Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers as much as I am for Candlemass or Electric Wizard (or probably moreso), that was a sound I had to hear.

To head this off before any confusion occurs, the style of this album definitely skews a whole lot more towards the yacht end of that description. Musically, there is some genuine doom metal to be heard on “Yell of the Ringman”, and fuzzed out guitars will underpin some of the other tracks like “Consume the Heart”. But for the most part, How To Think Like a Billionaire is largely lead by pianos, synth, and the beautifully (ahem) rich voice of Bill Fisher.

The true doom of the album comes in Fisher’s lyricism. Every song across How To Think Like A Billionaire is a deeply satirical look from inside the mindset of the wealthy, and the throngs of normal people caught up in cultish worship of their every move. Being best known as the main man behind the band Church of the Cosmic Skull, Fisher has already proven he’s adept at writing lyrics with unshaking religious fervor front and center. By warping his lyrical talents around such an ugly topic as celebrity worship and the viciousness and moral bankruptcy of the winners of capitalism, this album acts as a satire so pointed that it could almost be read as earnest if you just threw the album on without context.

In discussing this album with friends, it feels like there’s a universal agreement that the interplay of Fisher’s lyrical venom with genuinely beautiful, and even uplifting music makes How To Think Like a Billionaire a truly special album. Opener “Overview Effect” takes its name from an experience that should be humbling to its core to anyone, but lyrically paints a portrait of utter spiritual emptiness. But musically, it almost feels like a song that should have come from Chicago during their David Foster-produced hit factory days in the 80’s. The swerve before the big key change has honestly made me misty-eyed on multiple occasions. It’s truly an incredible sense of cognitive dissonance in musical form.

This disparity holds true across the grand majority of the album. “Ride On, Unicorn” is a snappy rocker that Boz Scaggs or even Toto would have been proud of, while lyrically depicting a drive to crush everything in your path in pursuit of further wealth. “Xanadu” could read as a genuine heartfelt love ballad with beautifully soulful singing, but it also happens to be about the pursuit of immortality by science or any other mean, everyone else be damned. The gospel-esque “Lead Us Into Fire” shifts the point of view to those laborers on whose backs the rich got their wealth, but it feels as if it could be a hymn to an omnibenevolent higher power in its reverence. Only “Yell of the Ringman” feels threatening, with its churning doom riff and lyrics that hint at the existential dread of falling behind the rest of the rich, and the constant need to make a product of oneself when one hits that level of wealth.

In terms of the music itself, there’s not a single moment across How To Think Like a Billionaire where Fisher allows a moment’s drop in quality. The pianos and synths across the board are impeccable and always have a killer hook. Guitars are used sparingly, but always tastefully, and any riff or solo that cuts through the mix feels perfectly crafted to the moment. Drums are always in the pocket pushing things along, with my particular favorite moment being the jazzy smoothness of “Xanadu”.

But I have to make special mention of Fisher’s own singing. Quite simply, How To Think Like A Billionaire is one of my favorite vocal albums in a long while. His approach has earned a lot of comparison to Michael McDonald, which is entirely warranted even if I’d argue he feels a bit more like the late, great Terry Kath of early Chicago fame. Every single song is injected with so much soul through his voice that it sells the cutting satire perfectly. His more delicate approach on “Xanadu” would melt any heart, and the passion he throws into the build of “Consume the Heart” puts chills down my spine. In lesser hands, the lyrical cynicism might have ended up cracking and falling apart, but it’s sung with so much power that one can’t help but get wrapped up in its spell.

It’s honestly very refreshing to see yacht rock weaponized in such a perfect way on How To Think Like a Billionaire. It was always a great genre full of deeply talented musicians, but its reputation as music for rich yuppies out sailing did it no favors. Using that exact style for such a scathing attack on the philosophy of wealth and rich worship is a brilliant move. Blending that style with doom metal subtext works better than it has any right to, and every additional I’ve listened to this album just feels better than the last. Between Fisher and bands like Young Gun Silver Fox, yacht rock (and its potential for genre blending) may have finally found safe harbor in the current generation.

As is usual for me when I enjoy an album this much, it’s hard to fight off hyperbole when describing How to Think Like a Billionaire. Bill Fisher honed every aspect of this album’s concept to a fine point, and there’s not a moment wasted across the tight 33 minute runtime. It’s one of those albums that practically begs for another spin as soon as the previous one ends, and the fact that it’s such a dense and lyrically heavy album just sweetens the deal. How To Think Like a Billionaire could very well stand as Bill Fisher’s masterpiece, even among several already great albums and projects. It’s one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, and I expect Brother Bill to feature high on my AOTY list. Yacht doom forever!

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