Vinyl, Ep. 1.03: “Whispered Secrets” struggles to juggle storylines

Vinyl, Season 1, Episode 3: “Whispered Secrets”
Written by Jonathan Tropper and Debora Cahn & Adam Rapp
Directed by Mark Romanek
Airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

The biggest stumbling block that Vinyl has to avoid is how it portrays mid-‘70s musicians. These were larger-than life-figures who wallowed in excess; we’ve imprinted their very public lives onto our collective consciousness. Most guest actors are simply too reserved to pull something like that off. “Whispered Voices” finds a way around that dilemma: you just have to find a rock star who’s a regular guy.

Unlike the absolutely stuffed pilot and last week’s still quite busy episode, episode three manages to find a somewhat more measured pace and allows the audience to catch their breath. The best segments feature Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) as he tries to entice Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram) to go solo and sign with American Century. Cooper is a fascinating figure because of how boring he is; the feminine name and proto-goth makeup barely concealed a witty guy who loves The Beatles and likes to play golf. Somehow those two personas manage to coexist without strangling each other. Ingram gets that salt-of-the-earth aspect just right as Cooper spends a debauched few days with Clark. Clark, one of the most straight-laced people at American Century, gamely plays along with the naked women and boa constrictors, but it’s all for naught: Cooper is just toying with him as a belated form of revenge for how Richie mistreated the band years ago. He doesn’t have any plans to go solo. (His resolve obviously didn’t last long.)

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