First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by Matt Parish
Wed June 27, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
On Through the Looking Glass, a track from Mott the Hoople’s 1974 classic effort The Hoople, Ian Hunter asked us to look a bit closer at ourselves. As the underlying sense of denial that lurked in the lines "Do you have to paint teeth green/when they're snowy, white and clean?" and "Do you have to make eyes red/when they're clear and fresh, instead?" made apparent, no one ever really wants to hear or see anything that reveals too much of the truth. Some 33 years later, Hunter once again is prodding his audience with a prophetic and sarcastic elbow that is meant to nudge us all toward personal and global reflection.
Shrunken Heads is Hunter's first studio record in six years, and it is full of the sort of introspective and thought-provoking lyrics that fans have come to expect from one of rock’s finest troubadours. The album begins with Words (Big Mouth). Containing a warning about how a few, misplaced, "cruel little clusters" unintentionally can wreak havoc upon the lives of loved ones, the song offers an apology while also revealing true regret.
When the World Was Round is a glorious ballad that yearns for the simplicity of the past to return in time to save our own children’s memories of their youth. The accuracy of internet and television news is questioned brilliantly when exposed in the lyric, "There’s too much information but not enough to go on." It reveals a growing sense of mistrust about what we are fed along with our daily bread. The title track’s political mood is timed perfectly for the 2008 correction…er, rather election. "Nothing matters anymore, the rich get richer, and the poor get sorer" seems to reflect public opinion, and sadly, there’s no mistaking the message contained within "You took our loyalty, and you tore it to shreds/we’re all at the mercy of shrunken heads."
For a pioneer of the 1970s British glam scene, Hunter’s interest in America’s present is quite the lesson in true patriotism for all of us lazy commoners. Soul of America is a tongue-in-cheek rallying cry for the defense of policies abroad, while the toga-party chant of How’s Your House turns the Hurricane Katrina tragedy into a wonderfully perverse taunt that is delivered with a witty sense of sarcasm that is drier than any of the busloads of blankets that have been sent by the good folks at F.E.M.A.
Nevertheless, Shrunken Heads isn’t all doom and gloom. Songs like Brainwashed and Fuss about Nothing have the same piss and vinegar that one would expect from the author of such rock ’n‘ roll classics as All the Way from Memphis and Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Meanwhile, Stretch contains one of the best James Bond-like guitar riffs ever recorded, and it is more than likely to end up on a future 007 soundtrack. It is pure, infectious fun that is propelled by Hunter’s trademark wit.
Some of the finest moments on any of Hunter’s records, however, are his introspective ballads. Barry Manilow even scored a huge hit with his version of Ships from Hunter’s brilliant You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic. Hunter’s sensitive and sincere touch is just as golden today: Guiding Light and Shrunken Head’s closing tune Read ’Em ’n‘ Weep are two of his most personal and melodic cuts to date.
In 1972, when Mott the Hoople burst onto the scene with All the Young Dudes, few expected that, some 35 years later, Ian Hunter’s career would be as relevant today as it is. Nevertheless, after decades of critically acclaimed work that reflects an impossible devotion and integrity to his craft, he’s become a bit of an elder statesman both for rock ’n‘ roll and for the people. Considering that he not only has plenty to say but also still has the chops to deliver it, we all should be listening to — or, at the very least, we all should be honest about — what we see in our own reflection.
Shrunken Heads 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!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box