Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables
AKA The Emperors New Clothes
In February, Todd Snider played a sold-out concert in London that had the music press in the Capital wetting their chops as if they had discovered another Godlike musical genius.
Subsequently, album reviews across the Internet have been just as generous in their praise, yet I still don’t get what all of the fuss is about.
Snider has a pleasant voice, interesting even, and the songs are all well developed with some quite clever lyrics here and there; but he wavers a bit too much between styles for my liking and the subject matter of the songs isn’t quite as cutting edge as I’d been led to believe. In Between Jobs doesn’t quite sound ‘believable’, as if it had been written by someone living that kind of poverty-stricken life. Springsteen has a similar problem these days.
Snider’s ode to the financial crisis New York Banker which has won him plaudits, is a good old-fashioned rocker; but the chorus ‘Good things happen to bad people, bad people, bad people’ is a bit twee considering this is his 12th album and he should know better.
The film-noir short story Digger Dave’s Crazy Woman Blues sounded cool on the first listen but soon found itself being unfavorably compared to Tom Waits and David Olney, who has recently made this genre his own recently.
Another rocker, Too Soon To Tell, touched a raw nerve with me as it’s about a man losing his job and feeling on the scrapheap. Snider’s Randy Newman rasp coupled with Amanda Shires’ harmonies and scary fiddle playing are the benchmark that this album should be judged by as everything falls into place on an anthem for a lost middle-aged generation.
Brenda is a fun lightweight rocker of a love song; and possibly the strongest song on the album, even if it is about Mick & Keef.
I feel guilty at not liking this album because liking it would have made me ‘cool’; but, after repeated listening over a full month, I get the feeling that Snider has felt a little bit left out as a host of younger singer-songwriters have come out of left field and covered some pretty weighty subjects in his absence, and he felt obliged to join in without having his heart fully immersed in the project.