Album: My Ride's Here

Warren Zevon, Artemis/Epic
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The Independent Culture

Few songwriters have Warren Zevon's journalistic skill – not in the sense of writing songs "ripped from tomorrow's headlines", (which he doesn't), but in the way he "puts the news in the nose", capturing one's attention with an arresting opening image. Who wouldn't want to know how a song turns out that starts, "She stood beside my narrow bed/To check my EKG"? Or climb aboard a title-track that begins with, "I was staying at the Marriott/With Jesus and John Wayne/I was waiting for a chariot/They were waiting for a train"? Of course, it helps if you can call on superstar journalist/fans like Carl Hiaasen and Hunter S Thompson as co-writers (on "Basket Case" and "You're A Whole Different Person When You're Scared", respectively), but it's mostly down to Zevon's own peculiar talent, particularly his mordant black humour and sardonic worldview. There's a positively glowering cynicism about songs like "Sacrificial Lambs", which condenses religion, politics and showbiz down to the same kernel of idolatrous sacrifice, and "Genius", a bitter reflection on love, success and reputation in which "The poet who lived next door when you were young and poor/Grew up to be a backstabbing entrepreneur". It's not all that dark, of course: "Lord Byron's Luggage" is an outsider anthem dressed in Celtic folk-rock fiddles, and "I Have To Leave" a touching rejection of an old flame, tricked out in Byrdsy arpeggios, while "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)" – a tragi-comic tale of a dumb Canadian farmboy who grows up to be a hockey thug – is so facetious it features the talk-show host David Letterman on the chorus.

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