As Tolstoy taught us: “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But I doubt even he could have concocted an upbringing like the one experienced by Airborne Toxic Event frontman Mikel Jollett — as chronicled in his sixth and most personal album Hollywood Park. Sparked by the death of his father and accompanied by an autobiography of the same name, the dozen-song disc reflects on Jollett’s early childhood in the notorious Synanon cult, followed by a young life scarred by poverty, hardship, drugs and emotional abuse. It could easily have been a maudlin downer that would make Lou Reed’s Berlin resemble a fairytale, but in Jollett’s capable hands it becomes a stirring, cathartic work of survival and eventual redemption, set against a backdrop of swelling, soaring heartland rock grandeur reminiscent of an artsier Bruce Springsteen. “You tell me that you wanna know my story,” Jollett says at one point. “I promise you it’s boring.” Not a chance.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Hollywood Park is The Airborne Toxic Event’s sixth LP and first new music in half a decade. It arrives alongside a new literary work of the same name by Airborne Toxic Event founder and frontman Mikel Jollett. Hollywood Park sees Jollett chronicling his extraordinary personal journey, from his early childhood in one of the most infamous cults of the 1970s, through a childhood of poverty and emotional abuse, before finding his voice as an artist among the confusion of an adult life spent nursing the wounds of childhood, and the redemption which came from looking inward and an acceptance of self and the fierce love of family. Produced and mixed by the band’s longtime collaborator Mark Needham, Hollywood Park serves as both companion volume and musical soundtrack to Jollett’s remarkable memoir, adding vivid sonic color to his wrenching and ultimately life-affirming personal chronicle. Indeed, both the album and book were fueled in large part by the untimely death of Jollett’s father. Devastated to his very core, he withdrew from both the world and his work for nearly a year before ultimately finding the strength to begin anew. “I spent the better part of the last four years locked in this little room in my basement writing. I’ve never loved something I’ve worked on so much. I’ve never worked so hard on something, to the point of exhaustion and near mental collapse. This has been a daily 12-hour toil for nearly four years. People have asked me what I hope others will take away from this project. I guess there are some fancy things I could say about emotional resonance, landscapes of the mind, and that little sob in the spine of the artist-reader (that’s how Nabokov put it) but any first-time author is lying who doesn’t simply say, I really hope people like my book. (And in this case, the soundtrack to it).”