When I’m President
Reaffirms Ian Hunter’s status as a true rock ‘n’ roll great...
Paul O'Mahony, 15 Oct 2012
From the former Mott The Hoople frontman who delivered ‘All The Young Dudes’ so many moons ago, When I’m President is one of Ian Hunter’s most American sounding albums in a long and distinguished solo career that runs the gamut from stonewall classics like Once Bitten Twice Shy and Cleveland Rocks through to some inconsistent indie releases from the mid-‘90s to 2001 that failed largely to hit the spot, despite some fine individual tunes.
Hunter’s never been short of attitude and inspiration and can pack a powerful lyrical punch, a talent that has seen him recognised as a formative influence on punk as well on artists as diverse as Morrissey and Def Leppard. It’s not that any career blips have stemmed from a lack creativity or something passionate to say, more that his ‘problem’ has been one of quality control in terms of overall consistency of output, on the one hand, and real commitment from some labels and management, on the other. “It’s a mighty long way down rock’n’roll”, indeed…
Thankfully, the man who made wearing his ubiquitous shades cool long before Bono adopted the look has been in a rich vein of writing and consistent quality releases in recent times, notably 2007’s Shrunken Heads and 2009’s Man Overboard. It seems to have taken him some time, naturally enough, to recover from the death from cancer of key sidekick, best mate, and legendary ‘feel’ guitarist Mick Ronson in 1993, but The Rant Band is probably the best unit he has assembled since the days of Ronno and 1989’s cracking ‘YUI Orta’ album. They snap, crackle and pop when the mood suits, swing with the type of swagger Hunter has been due but lacking for some time, and kick ass with a freshness which can only be captured when an album is done and dusted, as this one has, in the studio over a matter of days.
Sounding vocally strong and confident fronting such an accomplished musical crew, Hunter has been moved on the title track – like fellow elder statesmen of rock, Springsteen and Dylan – to address the greed and mismanagement behind the current financial meltdown: “I’m gonna lean on the 1%/When I’m president.”
As an album, this is less of the rocker-ballad-rocker-ballad format of earlier Hunter releases, instead taking curious and unexpected turns, from the bluesy groove of ‘I Don’t Know What You Want’ to darker Native American refrains reminiscent of the 1970s UK band Mr Big (whom Hunter produced) on ’Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)’ and the catchy ‘Saint. ’ Issues of quality control raise their head, alas, with the plodding opener ‘Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotman)’and the forgettable ‘Just The Way You Look Tonight’.