Album: Drive-By Truckers, The Big To Do (PIAS)
Friday 12 March 2010
Since 2008's magnificent Brighter Than Creation's Dark, Drive-By Truckers have released both a live album and a catch-up compilation of B-sides and outtakes, and continued their occasional alliances with soul legends by playing Booker T's back-up band on his Grammy-winning Potato Hole album. In other words, all the kinds of diversionary tactics usually practiced by bands short of new material.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth: The Big To Do is well up to their usual standard, and it's soon to be followed, they claim, by their "R&B Murder Ballad Album" Go Go Boots, which sounds like it could be even better. As before, The Big To Do is stuffed with literate storytelling songs situated in the band's native Deep South milieu, delivered in sometimes brutally authentic voices. "Birthday Boy", for instance, opens with the great line, "'Which one's the birthday boy?' she said, 'I ain't got all night'" – a handful of words evoking all the sleazy shame of an adolescent "celebration" with cheap booze and hookers. Sometimes, songwriter Patterson Hood needs only the right title to bring an entire world to life – as with "This Fucking Job", a bilious rant against a system that forces the protagonist's family to "live on fast-food wages".
But the lives depicted in Hood's songs are not just the clichéd underclass complaints of some pious, protesting folkie; instead, a vein of droll, trailer-trash graveyard humour and unforeseen twists makes songs like "Drag The Lake Charlie" and "The Wig He Made Her Wear" the musical equivalents to My Name Is Earl. In the former, two sad-sack cops searching for missing low life Lester hope they find him drowned, as they don't want to face the wrath of his wife Wanda if he turns up drunk in town again; while in "The Wig He Made Her Wear", Hood relates the true story of a wife who murders her churchgoing, pillar-of-the-community husband, but gets a short sentence for voluntary manslaughter by claiming his imposition of depraved sexual demands as extenuation, including the high heels and wig he forced her to wear. Upon her re-emergence from jail, however, she's observed still wearing them.
Elsewhere, "Get Downtown" is a big-hat, honky-tonk number, in which a wife turfs out the jobless couch-spud husband "uglying up the house", with brusque instructions to find himself a wage. Musically, it's the exception on The Big To Do, for which the Truckers have reverted to something close to the big rock sound of their 2002 classic Southern Rock Opera, with waspish slide-guitar and organ fattening up the monster guitar riffs, and plaintive harmonies punctuating Hood's drawled tales from life's other side.
Download this Drag The Lake Charlie; The Wig He Made Her Wear; Birthday Boy; This Fucking Job
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc