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Three chords indifferent

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Here's my review of the new album by Graham Parker and the Rumour, Three Chords Good. The album came out Monday; I posted the review on Amazon.com earlier today:

This album seemed like such a great idea: Reunite a brilliant songwriter with his crack backup band after 31 years, and a classic album surely will follow. Unfortunately, it works better as a concept. Graham Parker and the Rumour don't squeeze out many sparks here.

Perhaps the worst part is that Parker's lyrics are lazy. He used to be clever, but here he's complacent: "I know you been through more than enough/Lots of sad things pain and other stuff." This from a guy who effortlessly turned people into film exposures in "Discovering Japan," a guy who took just two lines to express the misfortune of a Venezuelan tribe's encounter with white missionaries: "Losing their loincloths as they gain ethnicide/All dressed in Western clothes and God will be their guide." ("Break Them Down.") Now, the best he can do is enough/stuff?

As for the band, that guitar buzz saw that used to be Belmont + Schwarz? Toothless. Bob Andrews (keyboards) is the only one earning his paycheck.

Seven songs into the album, the band starts to cook with "A Lie Gets Halfway 'Round the World," but at the very end, they just stop playing. No fadeout. Nothing. They just stop--too lazy to put a decent ending on the song. The sad thing is, the band clearly still has the chops. "Coathanger" would not be out of place on any Parker/Rumour album. So why don't they deliver?

I expected more from Parker after hearing Ian Hunter's latest, When I'm President (which you should buy right now). I mean, Hunter's 73 and he rocks like the Rolling Stones circa Exile on Main Street. But Parker and the boys sound like the doctor told them they shouldn't get too worked up because it might give them a heart attack. "Three Chords Good" sounds like an album recorded by a bored cover band at a wedding reception in a bingo hall.

Two photos in the lyrics booklet sum up the difference between the old Rumour and this one. The first photo shows the old version of the Rumor playing, Parker in the foreground, tilting the mic stand, singing with a look on his face telegraphing the relentless drive that was a hallmark of him and the band. The photo on the facing page shows the band members as they are today. Take the guitars out of the photo, and these six guys look like anything but a rock band, and they sure don't sound anything like the Graham Parker and the Rumour that ripped its way through the '70s, producing some of the best, smartest rock from that decade or any other. Another 31-year wait is in order.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
You should post it at S&R
Nov. 21st, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
I have retired from S&R, and here's why: When the whole Lance Armstrong thing went down, I wrote something for S&R that morning, just so the blog would have a timely post. A few hours later, having had more time to research and write, Sam unleashed a "me too" column about Armstrong, written in the distinctive Dr. Slammy style.

So what happens? The typical reader sees Sam's post first, reads it, and then sees mine and wonders what the point is of reading another Armstrong post. As ee cummings famously observed in "i sing of olaf": There is some s**t I will not eat.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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