Album: Warren Zevon

Genius: The Best Of Warren Zevon, Elektra

Friday 08 November 2002 01:00

Compiling your own greatest-hits package under the shadow of inoperable lung cancer must be like organising your own obituary before you've died ­ but at least you get to title it as you'd like to be remembered. It's handy, then, that the best track from Warren Zevon's most recent album, My Ride's Here, should be the splendidly dyspeptic "Genius", though he's always had an idiosyncratic way with such things: there are few weirder titles in rock than "Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead" and "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner", even weirder that they are perfectly explicable in terms of their subjects. But what comes across most from this superb collection is the grim retrospective irony behind many of these gritty, sardonic tales from life's soft underbelly. "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", "Lawyers, Guns And Money", "Detox Mansion", "I Was In The House When The House Burned Down" and "Mr Bad Example" are like way-stations along the path least taken. Zevon's friends include Carl Hiaasen, James Crumley and Hunter S Thompson ­ hard-living, bitterly amusing storytellers with few illusions about human frailties and appetites; the same black humour courses through his own best work. So there's no great immodesty in the title of this collection, although just as apt would be the poignant bohemian valediction "Mutineer".

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