First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2008, Volume 15, #10
Written by John Metzger
Fri October 17, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
The one good thing that has come from George W. Bushís imperial reign over America is, perhaps, the revival of the full-fledged protest album. Despite the anger in some corners over how he was awarded his position, artistic fury was slow to come,. Once he squandered the United Statesí goodwill around the globe by charging headfirst into an unprovoked war in the Middle East, all bets were off. Although their pursuits were sound, Dan Bern and Steve Earle were unsuccessful in their attempts to rally the liberal cause prior to the 2004 election; since then, everyone from Neil Young to T Bone Burnett has launched furious tirades at the Commander-in-Chief and his legion of religious hypocrites.
More recently, however, artists wisely have been steering clear of anything that could be called divisive, carefully choosing instead to use reason, logic, and emotion rather than harsh vitriol in order to appeal to members who sit on either side of the political aisle. It is, after all, time to move on from MoveOn.org if the changes that must be implemented are ever to be brought to fruition. With Burnettís help, John Mellencamp turned Life, Death, Love and Freedom into a quiet meditation on life in middle America, while Irma Thomasí Simply Grand served as a quiet reminder of the devastation that befell New Orleans. Considering its title as well as its authorís history, Peace Queer, the latest outing from snarky songwriter Todd Snider, might seem, at least initially, to be a return to the former approach.
Snider is, of course, better known for his biting humor than for his subtlety. On his previous endeavor The Devil You Know, for example, he playfully poked fun at President Bushís hard-partying college days, while his 2004 set East Nashville Skyline contained a track that was entitled Conservative, Christian, Right Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males. Launched directly into the maelstrom of the current election cycle ó and boasting a rather provocative cover photo ó Peace Queer very well could have been Sniderís rendition of Bernís My Country II or Youngís Living with War. Nevertheless, although there is an abundance of anger and frustration to be found within his new material, the song cycle that Snider concocted favors thoughtfulness over visceral assaults.
Naturally, there is no mistaking the concepts that Snider is trying to convey on Peace Queer or the target of his vehemence for that matter. Over the course of the brief, eight-song EP, Snider repeatedly builds his stories around conflict, whether it is schoolyard fistfights or Civil War battles, and his leaders often charge forward blindly without considering the implications of their actions. Aside from his various allusions to the war in Iraq, Snider also tackles the issue of American consumerism by pairing the grungy blues of Stuck on the Corner (Prelude to a Heart Attack) with the spooky dirge of Dividing the Estate (A Heart Attack).
The highlight of Peace Queer, however, very well may be Sniderís somber rendition of John Fogertyís Fortunate Son. In toning down the forceful fury of the familiar í60s anthem, Snider uncovers the ominous, dark, and foreboding folk song that lies at its core. As the mood that is established by its haunting refrain escapes from the cutís two-minute, 44-second cage, it inevitably informs and permeates the entirety of the affair. In the past, Snider has had a tendency to work and re-work his material until it exuded a level of slickness that sometimes undercut his substantive appeals. With Peace Queer, much as he did on The Devil You Know and East Nashville Skyline, he continues to alter and refine his approach. Although the effort isnít necessarily the best starting point for exploring his canon, it will whet the appetite of the fans who eagerly are awaiting his next full-length endeavor.
Of Further Interest...
Peace Queer is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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