The Most Powerful and Important Rock & Roll Record of the Decade.
Who knew the nascent Drive-By Truckers were originally formed in 1996? 1996? Seriously? 24 years ago?
I guess they first crossed my path with A Blessing and a Curse; then I suppose I became a ‘fan’ with GO-GO BOOTS ……. which is still a ‘go to’ album every now and again.
I’ve never seen the band play live; but did once see Patterson Hood on a rare solo foray to the North East of England.
With such a rarified and even exalted history; Hood, Cooley & Co could be forgiven for coasting at this stage of their career; but HELL NO they still have fire in their belly’s!
With so much going on in the US of A these days the songs on this album must have almost written themselves!
You are almost lulled into a false sense of security with opening track Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun; if it weren’t for the title itself. A brooding orchestral back-fill behind a haunting piano builds and builds as Patterson takes us on a dark road trip that will eventually send a shiver down your spine with the pay off.
Maybe I’m wrong but I can’t remember a Truckers song anything quite like it.
That sentiment isn’t true of the next song; Armageddon’s Back In Town which is fire and brimstone fuelled Southern Rock Deluxe; and needs to be played as loud as possible with the car windows wound down and the pedal pushed right down to the floor.
Deep metaphors, a melody worthy of Bernstein and choruses that will have audiences braying along with gusto combine to really get your adrenaline flowing like nobody’s business.
That same high tempo and spirited Rock sound follows with Slow Ride Argument; only with Mike Cooley now at the mic; and on most albums would be My Favourite Track; but trails way, way behind the leaders here …….. as Drive-By Truckers deliver one of the most important albums of not just the year; but the whole decade.
I must now jump to the final two tracks, Grievance Merchants and Awaiting Resurrection as they are imminently just as good as Slow Ride; and again on most other albums would be genuine highlights; but with such powerful songs like what I’m about to describe that come in between them; many will miss those three out …… but I urge you to listen intently and cherish them just as much.
Now; sit back and get comfortable.
I’m the King of Hyperbole when it comes to describing songs and albums; but the four songs that make up the middle of this album just ‘speak for themselves’ and prove that Patterson Hood is one of the Greatest songwriters of his generation.
*Thoughts and Prayers is absolutely stunning and captures the current zeitgeist perfectly as he taunts our politicians and Social Commentators unmercifully ……. esp the line:
“Stick it up your ass
With your useless Thoughts and Prayers.”
…….. and so say all of us!
There’s an almost jaunty beat to 21st Century (USA) which comes up next and is a sparkling insight into Smalltown America or indeed anywhere in the UK pre and most likely post-Brexit.
Okay; it’s the type of song Bruce has written over the years; but this is razor sharp and a damn sight more believable and fits in perfectly on this album.
Next up, Heroin Again is probably the sort of feisty Alt-Rocker ‘with a message’ that I may have expected in advance; but when you really listen to the lyrics (beneath those searing guitars) it’s a very personal story about someone close to the writer and will bring a tear to a glass eye.
Then there is just one more song to mention ……. Babies in Cages.
Is it right to make such a horrible song my Favourite? Although ‘Favourite’ is probably the wrong description; but it is such an important song that I need to push it clear of everything else and let it breathe on its own.
The title says it all; but the imagery and articulate way the singer describes the horrific scenes that befall our World in the 21st Century are absolutely mind boggling.
“I bang my head against it
Smash guitars and scream and shout
Standing on the beach watching the tide go out
Babies in cages
Standing in the darkness
to answer for our sins
Children changing each others diapers in a pen
Babies in cages.“
It’s the song that you hoped Bob, Bruce or Neil would write for us; but their day has gone …… all Hail Drive-By Truckers for keeping these stories in the public eye.
“It’s Only Rock & Roll” the Rolling Stones once sang; but that’s the medium that has always spoke to and for my generation; and on this album Drive-By Truckers have used the power of song to not just touch our hearts and make us actually think about the world around us in many different forms; but somehow managed to do it without ever sounding worthy or patronising while entertaining us too ……. which is a helluva clever thing to do.
*For the geeks out there
Thoughts and Prayers. – Patterson Hood – Baxendale Acoustic (Capo’d to G)
Awaiting Resurrection – Brad Morgan – Drums and Grunts, Patterson Hood – Gibson SG, Lead Vocal and Heavy Breathing (2nd Solo), Mike Cooley – Electric Slide Guitar (1st and 3rd solos.)
Released January 31st 2020