Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ian Hunter's Big Mouth

Ian Hunter "Shrunken Heads"
Shrunken Heads
Ian Hunter
May 2007

Cross Posted at Newcritics.

If you still believe that George Bush and his buddies are on the right track and you have the entire Journey catalog on your iPod, you’ll hate this record. If, however, for the last 5 years your emotional state has been on a wheel that rolls from outrage to disbelief to despair back to outrage again and your iPod contains the likes of vintage Stones, Dylan and The Kinks, drop everything and order Ian Hunter’s fabulous new release, Shrunken Heads.

I have to be careful here. This record has been front and center in my car and on my mp3 player since I picked it up last month. It has unexpectedly taken me by storm. I say “unexpectedly” because while I’ve always liked Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople, I’ve never been a huge fan. Again, I say “unexpectedly” because, quite frankly the man is 68 years-old. You just don’t expect to get a rock record this good from anyone who was born in the 30’s.

Well, then, what’s so good about?

First off, there’s the music. I don’t care how eloquent, relevant, ironic and funny the lyrics might be (and here they most certainly are all of the above,) the music has to move me emotionally. The music on this album goes down like a fine lager after a long day at the office. The band is loose like The Stones circa 1971, but also tight like the bands that back John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett. Real instruments played by seasoned musicians with heart. And the songs. Friendly open melodies, classic chord progressions, solid rhythm section and understated piano and guitar.

Then there’s Ian. I don’t think I’ve ever heard better singing come out of this man. Granted, he’s in the studio and they can fix the mistakes, but his delivery and passion can’t be faked. He can bring tears of sadness to your eyes as he laments from When The World Was Round:

'Cause everybody lies 'n' we're stuck in the middle
I think I liked it better when the world was round
There's too much information but not enough to go on
I think I liked it better when the world was round

You think to yourself, “He’s one of us.”

But then in the very next song (Brainwashed) those tears turn to laughter as he crows:

T-shirt with the maker's name,
Can't believe you bought it!
Brainwashed, brainwashed
You're still falling for it.

And again, you think, “He’s one of us.”

I can’t pick a favorite track, as there are so many good ones. The opener, Words (Big Mouth) tells the age-old story (in the first person, of course) of a bloke who’s had a few too many at the pub and then comes home and unloads a barrage of insults and complaints on his long-suffering woman, only to regret it the next morning. You’ve heard it before, but Ian Hunter tells it with just the right amount of sincerity and wit to make you want to listen again and again.

Fuss About Nothing sounds a bit like a John Mellancamp track, and like John Mellancamp the target of the song is a bogus conservative politician who’s just protecting your interests. The similarity ends there though, because instead of singing to the subject, Ian Hunter adopts the persona of the scoundrel and does a brilliant send-up:

You're making a fuss about nothin'
Everything's under control
That bee in your bonnet's got liberal on it
Sit back and relax, watch it all unfold

(and later on)

Now I'm just protecting your interests
I'm just defending your faith
These guys that were caught with their hands in the till
Nothing to do with me, mate, nothing to do with me

In the sad, spot-on title track, he sings about how we’re all victims of the Shrunken Heads. Are they the tiny heads on the TV screen that distract, baffle and lie to us, or the ones on the pieces of paper that line a few peoples’ pockets and are scarce in so many others?

Nothin' matters anymore
The rich get richer, and the poor get sorer
You took our loyalty and you tore it to shreds
We're all at the mercy of shrunken heads

Ian Hunter has served up 11 new songs in all, and there isn’t a loser in the bunch. If you’ve made it this far, just trust me. Go out and buy this record. Now.




Blogger Sticky said...

I fuckin' love Journey, baby! Who the fuck is George Bush?

2:18 PM  

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