Thursday, March 31, 2011
And He Puts The Load Right On Us
I wonder how many critics will respectfully and politely dole out 3 and 4 star reviews for Robbie Robertson's new, dull CD, "How To Become Clairvoyant?" I'm guessing all of them. I have little to lose by saying this record is one colossal disappointment. Truth be told, I'm not a fan of any of Robertson's solo output, what little of it there is. That's not easy to admit, considering how I feel about The Band. But I did want this record. Now that I've heard it, I don't want it so much.
Let's get the Clapton/Robbie duet out of the way. Ben Greenman in the New Yorker refers to "Fear Of Falling" as "the most engaging thing either man has recorded in years." Right. And "Little Fockers" is the best thing Robert DeNiro has done since "Meet The Fockers." What kind of back-handed compliment is that? This is one of the ONLY things Robertson has recorded in years. And as for Clapton, one small upward turn of his Twin Reverb knob and suddenly the same narcoleptic music he's been making for 30 years is "engaging?" The track is radio-friendly and more to the point, without balls.
The good stuff:
"She's Not Mine," sounding a bit like the adopted child of Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel, works because of its simple yet affective melody, and what sounds like some real heart on the choruses. It's nothing new, but I'm a sucker for a good ballad and some harmony.
Robertson's Band-break-up confessional, "This Is Where I Get Off" achieves some heaviosity thanks to its subject matter, and because if you close your eyes, you could hear Danko or Manuel crying out the lyrics. Robertson does a fine job evoking the late, great Rick and Richard with his vocal phrasing. Best thing on the record.
The bad stuff:
"He Don't Live Here No More," a song purportedly about Martin Scorsese, "The Last Waltz," and the debauchery of 1970-something, has cringe-making lyrics about getting drunk on moonshine, living on a fault line, walking in a sundown and heading for a breakdown. Paul Stanley of Kiss rhymed like this with regularity and nobody gave a shit. And Kiss records sounded better. Marcus deVries production sounds as if his last engineering class took place in 1984. I am not amused by the drum machines and synthesized strings.
"Axman" is a bland....very bland...ok...embarrassing song about guitar heroes, name-dropping Duane and Stevie Ray, like it was the greatest idea since the Foreman Grill.
I was a bit excited at the prospect of a Robbie/Trent Reznor instrumental collaboration. Too bad it's on "Madame X," a snoozer written by Eric Clapton. Do you remember "On The Couch" from the "Paris, Texas" soundtrack? Yeah, neither do I. Same thing.
"Straight Down The Line" and "When The Night Was Young," well...the songs aren't much more clever than their titles. Each moves along like any number of minor FM radio hits you suffered through while waiting for what you really wanted to hear.
"How To Become Clairvoyant" will come, and then it will go. And that's too bad. I didn't expect "Big Pink," but I also didn't expect something so uninspiring.